DERRY GAA: Oak Leafers frustrated as Armagh make it five from five

FRUSTRATED . . .Derry manager Damian McErlain
FRUSTRATED . . .Derry manager Damian McErlain

Allianz National Football League Division Three

Armagh 1-15, Derry 0-14

Armagh took a major step toward Division Two but there was only frustration for Derry in the Athletic Grounds as the home side registered their fifth league win in five games with a four point victory on Saturday night.

Andy Murnin's first half goal proved the decisive score but Derry were left frustrated by some curious decisions from Tipperary referee Derek O'Mahoney which seemed to go against Damian McErlain's men at key junctures in the game.

The Oak Leafers led at half-time before Armagh took control early in the second period but Derry were never out of it with Armagh's greater experience key as the large home crowd roared them on.

Derry made two changes from the defeat to Fermanagh with Ruairi Mooney fit again to replace Jordan Curran and Benny Heron coming in for Niall Toner but the real talking point from an Oak Leaf point of view was the substitutes bench.

Five of the county's Slaughtneil contingent made a much welcome first appearance of the season in the read and white as Padraig Cassidy, Paul McNeill, Shane McGuigan, Karl McKaigue and Brendan Rogers all took their places on a strong looking Oak Leaf bench and four would see action as the game progressed.

And their prescence seemed to inspire others as Derry produced a first half full of intensity and desire against an Armagh side that were unfortunate to lose both Ethan Rafferty and Joe McElroy to injury early in the first half.

Kieran McGeeney's team had already defeated Derry once this season in the McKenna Cup and the home side started with the confidence of a team leading the table after four wins from four.

Derry left Mark Lunch and James Kielt inside while the Orchard county looked to Andy Murnin and the big St. Paul's Lurgan man proved a real handful for the Derry defence in the first half.

A Niall Grimley free got proceedings under way but Derry were quickly level through an excellent Conor McAtamney score.

Those early injuries did not upset McGeeney side though who, despite playing against the breeze, forged ahead thanks to a goal and a point from Murnin. First a flowing move saw the St. Paul's man hook a superb score over his shoulder before, 16 minutes in, he found the back of the net.

It was another driving run from deep that set up Gregory McCabe for a shot on goal and when his shot rebounded high off the post, Murnin reacted quickest to gather, hold off a Derry defender and slip a lovely finish under Ben McKinless for 1-2 to 0-1.

Armagh were looking good but Derry had proved in Brewster Park two weeks ago that they will not lie down and five unanswered points from McErlain's team saw them reel Armagh in and lead by the 31st minute.

Mark Lynch had already come in from some close attention and was unlucky not to win frees on a couple of occasions off the ball before his free reduced the deficit five minutes after Murnin's goal.

From the kick-out, James Kielt then pointed with Benny Heron selling two dummies before pointing to leave one between the teams.

One behind became one in front thanks to two points from Glen's Emmet Bradley, the first fro play, the second another excellent free.

Armagh's first score for 19 minutes arrived courtesy of substitute Colm Waters who sold a lovely dummy in the corner before firing over from the left hand side.

With the sides level Kielt and Bradley (free) edged Derry ahead again but an inexplicable free awarded to Armagh in first half injury time allowed Rory Grugan to leave only one between the teams at 1-4 to 0-8 at half-time.

The home side got just the start to the second half they wanted as Murnin and Aidan Forker tapped over scores although Niall Grimley appeared to touch the ball on the ground in the build up to Murnin's.

A lovely fisted effort from Mark Lynch tied the game again but Armagh should have hit the net seconds later when Grugan sliced horribly wide after being sent clear by Murnin.

He made some amends with a point seconds later but again Derry drew level through Emmett Bradley before four points in three minutes gave Armagh the platform to go on and win it.

First, Niall Rowland pointed before Murnin chased his own break down to chip, soccer-style over the bar. Then Grugan (free) and a huge score from Stephen Sheridan gave the Orchard county a match wining four point cushion.

Derry rallied with a lovely Carlus McWilliams score but Armagh had lead enough to keep Derry at arm's length. A late penalty was sent over the Derry bar by Grugan as Derry's frustrations weren't helped by the sight of Brenda Rogers leaving the pitch with a hamstring injury only minutes after coming on.

Derry finish with games against Wexford and Sligo as things get very tight at the bottom and nothing only two wins will keep Derry's fate in their own hands.

Armagh: Blaine Hughes; Patrick Burns, Oisin Lappin, Paul Hughes; Edward English, Gregory McCabe, Joe McElroy; Stephen Sheridan (0-1), Charlie Vernon; Ben Crealey, Aidan Forker, Niall Grimley (0-1, 1f); Rory Grugan (0-6, 2f, 1pen), Andrew Murnin (1-3), Ethan Rafferty.

(Subs) Colm Waters (0-1) for E Rafferty (inj), 8mins;Ryan Kennedy for J McElroy (inj), 13mins; Niall Rowland (0-1) for P Hughes, HT; Oisin Mac Iomhair (0-1) for E English 44mins; Jamie Cosgrove for P Burns, 72mins;

Yellow cards: A Murnin, 25mins; G Mc Cabe, 30mins; A Forker, 31mins; S Sheridan, 34mins; P Burns, 53mins; Ronan Lappin for A Murnin, 67mins;

Derry: Ben McKinless, Ruairi Mooney, Kevin Johnston, Conor McCluskey; Michael McEvoy, Carlus McWilliams (0-1), Conor Doherty; Conor McAtamney (0-1), Emmett Bradley (0-4, 3f); Enda Lynn, Benny Heron (0-1), Terence O'Brien; Padraig Mac Grogan, Mark Lynch (0-4, 3f), James Kielt (0-2).

(Subs) Karl McKaigue (0-1) for C McCluskey (inj) 27mins; Niall Toner for T O'Brien, HT; Brendan Rogers for R Mooney, 40mins; Padraig Cassidy for C Doherty, 52mins; Paul McNeil for B Rogers (inj) 56mins; Peter Hagan for E Lynn, 60mins;

Yellow cards: M Lynch, 30mins; J Kielt, 31mins; E Lynn, 53mins; C McAtamney, 66mins;

Referee: Derek O'Mahoney (Tipperary).