Rian O’Neill and Jason Duffy get vital goals as Armagh secure landmark win over Dublin

Rian O’Neill and Jason Duffy get vital goals as Armagh secure landmark win over Dublin

Dublin picked up at Croke Park pretty much exactly where they left off the 2021 season, at sixes and sevens and ultimately defeated.

Five and a half months after losing out to Mayo at the All-Ireland semi-final stage, costing them the seven-in-a-row, Dessie Farrell’s crew came a cropper once again with a Rian O’Neill-inspired Armagh this time doing the damage.

The Orchard hit Dublin hard and early with first-half goals from Crossmaglen Rangers star O’Neill, who finished with 1-4, and Jason Duffy putting Kieran McGeeney’s side on their way to a landmark Allianz League win.

It was Armagh’s first game in the top flight since 2012 but they gave a good impression of a seasoned team with an assured display that yielded two precious Division 1 points in front of 22,704.

Rory Grugan impressed also for Armagh who led by nine points at half-time and by that same margin after 55 minutes, allowing them to absorb the impact of Lorcan O’Dell’s 59th-minute goal on his league debut for Dublin.

Dublin’s Lorcan O’Dell scores his sides first goal. Picture: INPHO/Tom Maher

Dublin also handed game time to ex-U-20 stars Lee Gannon and Ross McGarry so were in experimental mode to a degree as they await the return of players like Jonny Cooper, Con O’Callaghan and James McCarthy but will still be concerned at this comprehensive defeat.

They came into the contest armed with momentum after beating Laois last weekend to claim the O’Byrne Cup title.

Boss Dessie Farrell used 40 different players in that competition and handed two more players – Evan Comerford, Dean Rock – their first taste of action in 2022 this evening.

But Armagh paid precious little respect to Dublin’s good form or their big name players and ripped into the joint league title holders from the off.

Dublin did open up a 0-3 to 0-1 lead but it took some stout defending and a couple of excellent blocks to deny Armagh more scores in the first quarter.

Remarkably, Armagh would go on to outscore Dublin by 2-7 to 0-2 for the remainder of the half with the hosts’ defence torn asunder at times.

Experienced full-back David Byrne picked up O’Neill but the big full-forward was virtually unremarkable and helped himself to 1-3 by half-time.

His 23rd-minute goal was a peach and began with a rare misplaced hand-pass at the other end of the field by Brian Howard who was badly punished when Aidan Nugent kicked a long delivery downfield to O’Neill who found Byrne stranded and curled an expert finish beyond goalkeeper Comerford.

Dublin’s Ryan Basquel and Niall Rowland of Armagh. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

O’Neill added a couple of stunning points too while Grugan summed up the mood of Armagh’s evening when he gathered possession with a lovely piece of footwork before playing in Jason Duffy for a point.

Duffy then produced his own cameo for Armagh’s second goal in the 27th minute, stepping around John Small and chipping the ball over Comerford’s head to the shock of the Dublin fans on the nearby Hill 16 terrace.

Only Duffy knows if he meant it or if it was a miscued point attempt.

Either way, it had the effect of rocking Dublin back on their heels and by half-time the Orchard had opened up a huge 2-8 to 0-5 lead, almost putting the game beyond the Leinster champions at that early stage.

Farrell brought on Cameron McCormack from nearby Ballymun for his Allianz League debut at midfield, replacing Emmet O Conghaile.

McCormack was among the scorers as Dublin rallied with Rock and Niall Scully also pointing but Armagh responded with steadying scores from Grugan and Connaire Mackin.

With 15 minutes to go, Armagh were back nine ahead again following a cracking score from Tiernan Kelly, 2-13 to 0-10.

O’Dell clawed back 1-1 after he came on – the same as he scored against Louth in the O’Byrne Cup – but it

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