HURLING: Derry defeated as Armagh win crucial Celtic Park encounter

DISAPPOINTMENT . . .Derry manager Collie McGurk
DISAPPOINTMENT . . .Derry manager Collie McGurk

Allianz National Hurling League Division 2B

Derry 1-15, Armagh 2-18

Derry 's hopes of avoiding relegation from Division 2B were dealt a huge blow after Armagh secured a crucial win in Sunday's National Hurling League encounter in Celtic Park.

Both teams went into the game without a point from three games but it was Paddy Kelly's visitors who showed the greater hunger to claim victory and revenge for last season defeat in the Nicky Rackard Cup final.

It defeat leaves Derry firmly rooted to the bottom of the table and with a final day trip to Wicklow to come next week, on the same day as Armagh meet Donegal, Collie McGurk's men will do well to complete their campaign with any points.

Armagh started with 10 of the team that lined out against Derry in the Nicky Rackard Cup final last June while Derry boasted only five from their starting line-up in Croke Park.

That day in headquarters had turned into a sunny stroll for Collie McGurk's men who eventually won by 10 points but Armagh arrived in Celtic Park determined to set the record straight and were the better team for the majority of the opening half.

However, it took Paddy Kelly's visitors until the 31st minute to register their first point from play, their first score from play coming from Eoin McGuiness' 17th minute goal after Seamus Higgins had misjudged the bounce on a difficult surface.

The Orchard County deployed Nathan Curry as a sweeper in front of his full back line and the Na Fianna back was instrumental in establishing a 2-09 to 1-05 interval lead for Armagh but Derry were playing into a the bright sunshine which was evidenced by the number of times defenders were struggling to read high balls into the danger area.

One of Armagh's Croke Park contingent, David Carvill - who finished with 0-6 in the Rackard final - had matched that tally by half-time on Sunday but Derry will be disappointed by an unanswered 1-02 in the final three minutes of the half gave Armagh a significant cushion at the break.

Curry's huge free from well inside his own half got the scoreboard up and running for the visitors on three minutes but Derry responded with a couple of points from Slaughtneil's Mark McGuigan before Carvill got his first of the afternoon from a free.

The tit-for-tat nature of the scoring continued with Alan grant grabbing a free for Derry before Carvill and Curry hit two further frees to put Armagh 0-4 to 0-3 up on 13 minutes.

Again Grant and Carvill swapped frees before Armagh managed to put some daylight between themselves and the Oak Leafers when McGuiness capitalised on Higgins' mistake to fire home the game's first goal.

And Armagh could have had a second goal had Derry keeper Michael Kirkpatrick not produced a superb diving save from Nathan Green's goal bound shot eight minutes later.

That save looked even more crucial when, seven minutes before half-time Derry won a penalty after corner-forward Laim Murphy was brought down by a combination of Armagh keeper Simon Doherty and defender David Bridges.

Kirkpatrick came forward from the Derry goal to take it but watched his opposite number Docherty produced the game's second fantastic stop only for Oisin McCloskey to react quickest and smash the rebound into the net to bring the game back to 1-4 to 1-6.

Derry would have been happy enough to turn around at that, especially after seven first half wides, but Armagh who hit six wides themselves, rallied with Connor McAnallen, and David Carvill (2) scoring either side of a Oising McCloskey point.

It got even better for Armagh when full forward McGuinness turned provider, hand passing to David McCreesh to slam Armagh's second goal and ensure they took a 2-9 to 1-5 lead into half-time.

Derry introduced Banagher's Darragh Cartin at half-time and the Banagher man could have hit the net within seconds of the restart but his shot was too straight at Doherty who saved well.

Cartin did get on the scoresheet from a free seconds later and while Derry stepped up the intensity, Armagh were doing well to keep them at arm's length with some important scores.

The loss of Cormac MCKenna to a straight red card on 47 minutes didn't help the home cause but Armagh's numerical advantage was lost when the influential Curry inexplicably followed McKenna in the 54th minute following an off the ball incident with Waldron.

that left the scores 2-13 to 1-11 in the visitors favour but with the teams at 14-a-side, Derry stepped up a gear.

A superb Grant free left four between the teams and when substitute Colm Murphy pointed, a goal was all that separated the sides with 10 to play.

Armagh though were doing well to tag on a score or two with Stevie Renaghan grabbing two crucial scores to push the lead back out to four after Grant has split the posts for Derry.

It was all to play for going into the last five for two teams who knew victory was crucial to their hopes of staying in Division 2B but points from John Corvan and Carvill established a a match winning six point advantage for Armagh and Derry needed goals

Bradley saw a low effort blocked and despite a late Murphy point, Derry couldn't force the goals they needed as Armagh held on for a win that could be the difference between relegation and staying up.

Derry: Michael Kirkpatrick, Eoin Gilmore, Seamus Higgins, Darragh McCloskey; Naoise Waldron, Cormac McKenna, Ciaran Steele; Jack Phelan (0-1), Paul Cleary; Alan Grant (0-5, 4f), Mark McGuigan (0-2), John Mullan; Gerald Bradley (0-1, 1f), Oisin McCloskey (1-1), Liam Murphy (0-2).

(Substitutes) Niall Farren for C McKenna, 25mins ; Darragh Cartin (0-2, 1f) for S Higgins, HT; Cormac McKenna for N Waldron, HT; Naoise Waldron for J Mullan, 48mins; Colm Murphy (0-1) for M McGuigan, 60mins;

Yellow Card: O McCloskey, 23mins; A Grant, 34mins; D McCloskey, 70mins.

Red Card: C McKenna, 47mins.

Armagh: Simon Doherty; Ciaran Clifford, Artie McGuinness, David Bridges; Paul Gaffney, Nathan Curry (0-2, 2f), Tiarnan Nevin; John Corvan (0-2, 1f), Dylan McKenna; Nathan Green (0-1), Stevie Renaghan (0-2), David Carvill (0-8, yf); Cathal Carville, Eoin McGuinness (1-1), David McCreesh (1-0).

(Subs) Connor McAnallen (0-1) for D McKenna, 15mins; Barry Short (0-1) for N Green, 66mins;

Yellow Card: D McKenna, 6mins; C Carville, 16mins;

Red Card: N Curry, 54mins;

Referee: James Connors (Donegal)