DERRY GAA: Oak Leafers clinch Nicky Rackard Cup Glory
Nicky Rackard Cup Final 2017
Derry3-22, Armagh 2-15
It was mission accomplished at Croke Park as Derry were crowned Nicky Rackard Cup winners 2017 to secure a return to Christy Ring competition for next season.
A tight first half, saw Derry go in six points ahead with Na Magha's Alan Grant in superb form, hitting 1-04 of the Oak Leafers first half tally of 1-09 but Armagh were never out of the match. That changed within three minutes of the restart as a 1-02 blast provided Collie McGurk's team with some breathing space and from there, it was only ever a matter of how big the margin of victory would be.
It was a cautious opening from both teams, probably reflective of the importance of securing Christy Ring hurling for each county and it was fully seven minutes before the game's first score arrived but it was worth the wait.
Gerald Bradley's long ball toward the Armagh square was brilliantly broken down by Brendan Rogers who managed to pick out the supporting run off Grant who was coming in off the right wing. Grant's long stride took him clear of the covering defenders with the Na Magha man finishing superbly to the back of the Orchard net for an instant three point lead.
It was precisely the start Derry wanted but any thoughts the Armagh underdogs would wilt were quickly dispelled.Sylvester McConnell's team had already picked up two yellows card in the opening two minutes, Nathan Curry lucky to escape with only a yellow for appearing to strike the midriff of Derry Cian Waldron while corner forward Dylan McKenna followed him into the notebook for a reckless challenge on Darragh McCloskey.
But the Grant goal only served to wake the Orchard County and with three minutes they were level thanks to points from Curry and two from Eoin McGuiness.
Armagh danger man David Carvill then edged his side in front with his first free of the day but six first half frees would cost the men in orange as the half wore on and Derry took control but only after a brilliant Sean Cassidy block denied Connor Corvan a certain goal.
With Armagh a point up, Derry went through the gears with Gant hitting three frees after a lovely Gerald Bradley score to leave it 1-04 to 0-04 with 22 minutes on the clock.
a second sublime effort from Bradley increased the lead and it took Carvill's second free of the half to start the Armagh scoreboard ticking over again but Armagh would only score once more through Ryan Gaffney as points from Grant, Bradley and and two injury time scores from Brian Cassidy gave the Oak Leafers a commanding interval lead of 1-09 to 0-06.
A commanding lead became an insurmountable one inside three minutes of the restart.
From throw in, Chrissy McKaigue sent a long ball in which his Slaughtneil team mate Brendan Rogers did superbly to gather and point but better was to follow and it came from another Slaughtneil source.
A point looked the best Gerald Bradley could managed when he gather possession 20 yards from the posts under pressure but the Emmet's player shook off defenders before unleashing a ferocious shot into the far top corner for a magnificent goal.
Grant's free brought it to 2-11 to 0-06 and the game had been taken away from an Armagh team that were closer than the scoreline suggested.
Derry used that five point salvo to rubber stamp the result with further points from Cassidy, Chrissy McKaigue and substitute Ruairi Convery.
A kicked goal from full forward Ryan Gaffney offered brief hope of an unlikely comeback but it was quickly extinguished with Brendan Rogers' superb solo run setting up Brian Cassidy for a deserved goal for 3-17 to 1-11.
Armagh kept plugging away but the longer the game wore on the more Derry's class and experience told.
Gaffney did grab a second Armagh goal but it mattered little as Derry rounded off an excellent display with Brain Cassidy's outrageous skill and point along the right touchline.
Derry were champions but this will only be 'Step 1' of McGurk's plan to get Derry hurling back to where it belongs.
DERRY: Darryl McDermott; Paddy Turner, Sean Cassidy, Darragh McCloskey; Paul Cleary, Oisin McCloskey, Liam Og Hinphey; Conor McAllister, Chrissy McKaigue (0-3); Gerald Bradley (1-3), Mehaul McGrath, Alan Grant (1-5, 4f); Brendan Rogers (0-3), Brian Cassidy (1-4), Cian Waldron.
(Substitutes) Kevin Hinphey for Alan Grant (B/S), 11mins - reversed 12mins; Kevin Hinphey for C McAllister, 22mins;Naoise Waldron for P Turner, H/T; Sean McCullagh for P Cleary (B/S - reversed 51mins), 38mins; Cormac O'Doherty (0-1) for C Waldron, 46mins; Ruairi Convery (0-4, 2f, 1 sixty-five) for A Grant, 46mins; Brian Og McGilligan for P Cleary, 58mins;
ARMAGH: Simon Doherty, Ciaran Clifford, Artie McGuinness, Tiarnan Nevin; John Corvan, Nathan Curry (0-1), Connor Devlin; Paul Gaffeny, Odhran Curry; David Carvill (0-6, 5f), Eoin McGuinness (0-2), Connor Corvan (0-1); Dylan McKenna, Ryan Gaffney (2-0), Cahal Carvill (0-3).
(Substitutes) Fiachra Bradley for D McKenna, 30mins; Danny Magee for A Guinness, H/T; Dean Gaffney (0-1) for E McGuinness, 60mins; David Bridges for C Devlin, 62mins; Caily Gorman for C Corvan, 70mins;
Referee: Shane Hynes (Galway)