A David Clifford-inspired Kerry saw off Armagh at the Athletic Grounds on Sunday afternoon to cement their place as the top team in the Division.
While a league final stands between the Kingdom and silverware, Armagh knew a result on Sunday afternoon would have left their destiny – and a first league final appearance since 2005 – in their own hands.
Mayo’s defeat to Tyrone on Saturday night leaves Kieran McGeeney’s men with a glimmer of hope of reaching the league decider in two weeks time.
Armagh, who travel to Donegal, must better Mayo’s result – they host Kildare at the same time.
Armagh will rue missed opportunities against the mighty Kerry; a goal-bound Jason Duffy shot could have changed the complexion of the tie midway through the second half had it been directed either side of Shane Ryan’s goal.
On the other hand, star forward David Clifford – who was omitted from the squad earlier in the week, only to return on matchday, needed no second invitation as he collected and turned on the ’14 to slot past a retreating Ethan Rafferty in the Armagh goal. That score proved the difference between the two teams.
There were moments for Armagh in the second half following a difficult first period, but Kerry responded to much of Armagh’s scores to keep themselves within a three-point distance for much of the game.
While next Sunday’s clash with Donegal may not be the do-or-die many would have predicted at the beginning of the season, it will be a good yardstick for the Orchardmen ahead of their trip to Ballybofey come championship time.
Photos by Vincent Loughran.