Fresh after their narrow 20-15 home win against Navan Armagh made the long trip into Co. Cork to play newly promoted Kanturk.
The rumours abounded about this ‘new kid on the block’, Kanturk.
They were reputed to have a very strong pack of forwards and a wickedly passionate set of supporters! Indeed, the sight of ex international prop, Tony Buckley, warming up prior to the kick-off was sufficient to worry any visiting coach. This team had defeated Boyne 35-10 in their previous fixture!
The weather forecast had predicted Rain and wind for the region and the exposed nature of the Knocknacolan pitch made it all the more certain that the prevailing weather would contribute to the final result.
The game, however, kicked-off in bright sunshine with the blustery breeze at the backs of Kanturk. Almost instantly Armagh’s worst nightmare became fact when a silly handling error let Kanturk in for the simplest of tries in only the second minute of play.
To add to this horror the conversion was on target to put the visitors behind 7-0 almost before they had got their hands on the ball!
It was, by now, obvious that this Munster side were no push-over and unless Armagh could regain their composure they were in for a real disaster. Sure enough, the Armagh experience began, albeit gradually, to appear.
They began to gain the upper hand in the scrums despite their lighter pack and most importantly their defence was performing to plan. With a back row of Morton, Faloon & McCall’s experience any team would struggle to gain points.
Armagh’s full back had a clearance Kick charged down and Kanturk almost scored again. To add to Armagh’s plight Manihera Eden missed a penalty kick just to the right of the posts. The problems continued as the visiting hooker went down injured.
After some lengthy attention from the team physio & doctor he was able to continue. Armagh were then seen to launch some fine attacks but the Kanturk defence held firm until, eventually, Neill Faloon forced his way across the line to score one of his signature tries just right of the posts.
This time the conversion was on target and the 7-7 score now looked more respectable. The visiting pack now began to dominate the scrums and this led to winger, Robbie Faloon, scoring close to the posts. Again the conversion was on target to bring the score up to 7-14.
Just prior to the half-time break the Kanturk winger was yellow carded & Tony Buckley was spotted slapping an Armagh player to earn himself a sin-binning.
The second half kicked-off with the home side down to thirteen players but witH a renewed vigour. Despite the numerical advantage Armagh were unable to add to the score. In the fiftieth minute the weather finally broke to send the large crowd scurrying for shelter.
After a brief ten minute squall the rain passed but Armagh still had no real advantage with only a seven point score gap. The referee dispensed a further two yellow cards to Armagh players and before the final whistle five would be shown.
The home team raised the hopes of their noisy supporters when they scored close to Armagh’s posts. Again the conversion was on target to equalise the score at 14-14.
As the game progressed it became obvious that Kanturk had a policy of pinning their opposition in the left corner of the pitch which was known locally as the ‘hole’. Armagh were no exception and at every opportunity the Kanturk backs kicked for this spot to repeatedly send Armagh back to this dreaded zone.
Only a truly resolute defence could resist this treatment and on the day The Armagh team,to a man, worked tirelessly as a defence not to be broached. Five minutes from the final whistle a Kanturk forward Was penalised for entering a ruck unfairly.
Armagh’s replacement out-half, Andrew Magowan, was accurate with the kick to give the visitors the slimmest margin which they clung on to right to the final move of the game.
Again Kanturk were penalised for a rucking offence one metre short of the Armagh line! The kick was sent to touch and much to the relief of the Armagh side the referee blew the final whistle!
This narrow 14-17 victory was just enough to promote Armagh to fourth league slot. In the club house after the game it became the topic of almost all conversations that Kanturk had retained an unbeaten home league record since 2008! With this record and with the club strategy in place this club should have no problem securing a future in the Ulster Bank League.
While this was a really narrow victory it was nonetheless a true illustration of the tenacity of the young team.
The Armagh team man of the match was named as prop, Simon Carlile who was seen to control his position in the engine room with particular courage & superb technique.