McKENNA CUP: Armagh into last four after defeating Derry

Armagh will meet Donegal in the McKenna Cup semi-final on Wednesday night.
Armagh will meet Donegal in the McKenna Cup semi-final on Wednesday night.

Bank of Ireland Dr. McKenna Cup, Section B

Armagh 1-15, Derry 0-13

Armagh will meet Donegal in the second McKenna Cup semi-final after Kieran McGeeney's men got the better of the Derry in an entertaining clash at the Athletic Grounds on Sunday.

The greater experience and physicality of the home side proved the difference between the sides but with two weeks to go until the start of the National League, Damian McErlain will not be too disappointed to have an extended preparation time before his side faces Westmeath.

Armagh started with the benefit of a considerable wind at their backs but they took full advantage with an impressive opening 35 minutes.

Kieran McGeeney's men employed a high press on the Derry kick-out which forced Ben mcKinless to go long in condition which meant he was struggling to reach the 45m line. It allowed Armagh to hem Derry inside their own '45'.

Derry, when they did secure primary possession, had some strong runners taking the ball out of their half with Jack Doherty and Liam McGoldrick prominent but Armagh's were tackling with the tenacity of a Championship encounter.

And with the wind forcing Derry to use the running game, as soon as the Oak Leafers breached the first line of Armagh defence, the men in orange retreated en mass to inside their own 45, waiting on turnovers from which to launch attacks toward full forward Andy Murnin who was giving Michael McEvoy a tough time.

For all their impressive build up though, Armagh were indebted to a fortuitous Murnin goal onn 20 minutes to really get going and seven first half wides illustrated some wasteful shooting.

Armagh Patrick Burns was talking tight marking to a whole new level against Enda Lynn, never straying more that a yard away from the Greenlough man but both he and Mark mLynch were spending too much time in their own half during the first half to suit Derry.

Armagh's high intensity plan swung into action after only 12 seconds when Aidan Forker swung over the first point straight from the throw-in but Peter Hagan equalised with a free minutes later.

Rory Grugan (free) and Charlie Grugan put Armagh two ahead but by that stage they had already lost Ben Crealy to a fifth minute injury.

Michael Bateson and Conor McAtamney were probably Derry's best players at this stage, winning plenty of 'dirty' ball and it was the latter who grabbed Derry 's second score after a lovely touch from Lynch. Ly nch then swung over a free and the sides were level with 19 minute played but Armagh took control with 1-1 inside a minute.

First Paul Hughes charging run through the middle wasn't matched by his weak shot but Munin anticipated the mishit and nipped in front of McKinless to flick home a real poacher's goal.

It was followed by Grugan free and suddenly Armagh had a four point lead they probably deserved but hadn't looked like being able to manufacture.

Mark Lynch responded with a superb point but the remaining seven minutes of the half belonged to Armagh and only they will know how they finished the half with only one goal.

A Grugan free and a Murnin point made it 1-06 to 0-4 before Armagh half-back Niqall Rowland got himself on the end of a brilliant flowing move but only he can know how he fisted over the bar with the net empty after being teed up by Ronan Lappin.

another point from substitute Micheal Stevenson was cancelled out by Niall Toner but Armagh were well worth their 1-08 to 0-4 interval lead which probably should have been more given the goal chances passed up by the home side.

It took Armagh 45 seconds to dispel any notion that the wind would restrict them in the second half, Rory Grugan seonding over a lovely point with his left foot.

The home side passed up another goal chance on 37 minutes with Forker set up Stevenson who stepped inside but shot straight at McKinless who produced another smart save to keep the Oak Leafers in the game.

And the visitors responded in style with three points in a minute as substitute James Kielt (free), Lynn and Ruairi Mooney all sent shots over the bar to bring the deficit back to 1-10 to 0-08.

Armagh had been kept scoreless for 14 minutes by the time Charlie Vernon grabbed their 11th point but that that stage Kielt was well into his single handed attempt to drag Derry back into the game with some fantastic long range shooting from frees that brought it back to 1-12 to 0-11 with eight minutes left.

Derry should have been awarded a penalty with five minutes left with Lynn was dragged to the floor but Monaghan referee Martin McNally incredibly awarded a free out to the amusement of most of the Athletic Grounds crowd.

Kielt and McFaul made it a two point game as the clock ticked into injury time but late scores from Aaron Findon, Rowland and Stevenson (free) gave the home side the cusion they needed to secure a semi-final meeting with Donegal next Wednesday.

Armagh: Blaine Hughes, Patrick Burns, Aaron McKay, Paul Hughes, Niall Rowland (0-2), Greg McCabe, Mark Shields, Stephen Sheridan, Charlie Vernon (0-2), Ben Crealey, Aidan Forker (0-1), Ryan McShane, Rory Grugan (0-5, 4f), Andrew Murnin (1-1), Ethan Rafferty.

Substitutes: Ronan Lappin for B Crealy (inj) 5mins; Michael Stevenson (0-3, 1f) for Ethan Rafferty (inj), 18mins; Brendan Donaghy for P Burns, HT; Anto Duffy for R Grugan 63mins; Michael McKenna for A Forker, 63mins; Aaron Findon (0-1) for B Donaghy, 67mins;

Yellow cards: R Lappin, 57mins;

Black Cards: A Murnin, 66mins;

Derry: Ben McKinless, Conor McCluskey, Michael McEvoy, Ruairi Mooney (0-1), Patrick Conry, Michael Bateson, Liam McGoldrick, Conor McAtamney (0-1), Jack Doherty, Enda Lynn (0-1), Niall Toner (0-1), Ciarán McFaul, Conor Doherty, Mark Lynch (0-2, 1f), Peter Hagan (0-1, 1f).

Substitutes: Patrick Kearney for Bateson, 44mins; James Kielt (0-5, 4f) for M Lynch, 44mins; Fergal Higgins for J Doherty, 54mins; Eoghan Concannon for R Mooney, 69mins;

Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan)


Michael Wilson

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