Derry Minors hit five goals as Armagh brushed aside in Ulster Championship at Athletic Grounds

Electric Ireland Ulster Minor Football Championship, Round One

By Michael Wilson
Saturday, 23rd April 2022, 7:35 pm

Armagh 2-06, Derry 5-10

Derry minors made a five star start to their Ulster Championship campaign thanks to a blistering 13 point victory over Armagh at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday night.

Four first half goals had put the game to bed by the interval for Martin Boyle's impressive troops who bossed proceedings from first whistle to last and could have scored even more than the five goals they finished with.

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Derry Minor manager Martin Boyle talks to his players after their impressive Ulster CHampionship victory over Armagh in the Athletic Grounds

The excellent Eoin Higgins, Ciaran Chambers (2), Ryan McNicholl and Dara McPeake with the Oak Leaf goal scorers but on a day when Derry hit 5-10, it was probably Slaughtneil corner back Fionn McEldowney who pipped a number of impressive team-mates for the 'Man of the Match' honours with a text book display in defence. Intense, disciplined and non-stop in his running, McEldowney's performance typified Derry's on a day when every player in red and white shone brightly.

Having lost out in the minor League final to Tyrone, and given the unpredictable nature of minor football at the 17 age bracket, Boyle admitted pre-match he wasn't quite sure what to expect from his young Oak Leafers in what was their first championship outing but he shouldn't have worried as Derry put on a first half exhibition that yielded four goals and a 4-05 to 1-02 half-time lead.

Setting up with Odhran Crozier as a sweeper, Derry controlled the ball with long periods of possession and pulled their hosts al over the pitch, creating pockets of space for red and white runners to cause havoc.

Ciaran Chambers' piledriver of an opener set the tone, taking a short free from Ryan McNicholl and ignoring the safe option of tapping over the bar to blast past four Armagh defenders and into the roof of the net from 25 yards on 13 minutes. Chambers had not right to shoot from the pass but his fantastic goal sent the confidence soaring through his team.

That made it 1-03 to 0-2 after a first quarter in which Derry had led three nil thanks to points from the hugely impressive Higgins, Cahir Spiers and Shea Birt but Armagh were settling themselves, answering with a Dara McCloskey free and a Callum O'Neill point.

Indeed, Chambers' goal brought about an instant Armagh response, the dangerous Dara McCloskey seizing on a slip in the Oak Leaf back line to hit the net and bring it back to 1-04 to 1-04 on 24 minutes.

However, that was as good as it got for the home side and if Chambers' goal had been a blow for the Orchard County, worse was to follow as Aaron O'Neill was black carded for stopping the run of Spiers as he sought to break out of defence and the Oak Leafers made Armagh pay heavily, hitting three goals in three first half minutes.

First, Higgins, who was superb throughout, slipped a lovely low finish into the net on 26 minutes and before Armagh could gather themselves McNicholl was charging through a vacant Orchard backline for another brilliant low, right footed finish to the net.

Armagh were shell shocked but it got worse as the Cahir Spiers, another Derry player to produced a superb display, slipped in big midfielder McPeake who strode through to produce the type of cultured finish a full forward who have been proud of. It was a breath-taking spell of football.

Higgins tagged on a point seconds later and as the sides turned around at 4-05 to 1-02 , the game was as good as over.

The second half was game management territory for Derry and Boyle can be pleased at how his young players controlled both the tempo and spaces of a game in which they never allowed Armagh even a glimmer of hope.

Derry were leading 4-09 to 1-05 when their fifth and final major of the day arrived, Ruairi Forbes finding Johnny McGuckian who in turn fed Chambers to almost walk the ball in for his second goal of a very productive evening.

There was the late consolation of a second goal for Armagh, midfielder Oran Callaghan punching home Aaron O'Neill's high centre but it was merely a footnote. Derry were already home and hosed and on this performance can look forward with confidence to their second round tie against one of their other quarter-final winners.

Derry scorers: Eoin Higgins (1-4, 1f ), Ciaran Chambers (2-0), Ryan McNicholl (1-1, 1f), Dara McPeake (1-0), Cahir Spiers (0-2), S Birt (0-2),

Armagh scorers: Dara McCloskey (1-4, 2f), Oran Callaghan (1-0), Callum O'Neill (0-1), Padraig O'Keefe (0-1),

Derry: Ben O'Connor, Fionn McEldowney, Eoin Scullion, Danny McDermott, James Murray, Odhran Crozier, Shea Birt, Dara McPeake, Ruairi Forbes, Johnny McGuckian, Ryan McNicholl, Cahir Spiers, Eoin Higgins, Ciaran Chambers, Odhran Murphy. (Subs) Conal Higgins for O Murphy, 36mins; Antain Donnelly for O Crozier, 50mins; Conor Downey for C Chambers, 53mins; Paddy McMullan for S Birt, 55mins; Eoin McCracken for C Spiers, 60mins;

Armagh: Shea Murphy, Keegan Grant, Oisin Sweeney, Fionnbar McKee, Callum O'Neill, Ryan McGahan, Tiarnan McDonald, Michael McSorley, Oran Callaghan, Daragh McNulty, Aaron O'Neill, Ryan Duffy, Caolan O'Hare, Dara McCloskey, James Austin. (Subs) Padraig O'Keefe for O Callaghan, 22mins; Finn Nolan for R McGahan, 32mins; Shea McCann for R Duffy, 39mins; Aaron Haughey for D McNulty, 45mins; Sean Hamill for J Auston, 54mins;

Yellow Cards: D McNulty, 3mins; Ryan McGahan, 14mins; K Grant, 37mins. Black Cards: A O'Neill, 17mins; M McSorley, 58mins.

Referee: Barry McMenamin