Derry defeat Armagh thanks McAleese's wonder strike

Derry Minors who defeated Armagh.
Derry Minors who defeated Armagh.

Armagh 0-04 Derry 1-05

PJ McAleese's audacious 52nd minute goal gave Derry a fully deserved Ulster Minor Championship victory over Armagh at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday evening.

The young Oak Leafers turned around a 0-3 to 0-1 half-time deficit thanks to a brace of Matthew Downey points inside 60 seconds, one a free and one from play, before McAleese capped a non-stop performance with a superb finish.

A patient Derry build-up picked its way through the massed ranks of Armagh defenders to send McAleese clear. The Kilrea player drew Armagh no. 1 Shea Magill off his line before producing a breathtaking chipped finish over the stranded Orchard keeper.

It was a rare moment of quality in an otherwise disappointing spectacle with Armagh left to rue an overly defensive first half in which they never fully utilised the elements.

Ciaran McKeever's men finally threw off the shackles and nearly brought themselves back into the game when Sean Rocks shot needed a brilliant James McGurk block to prevent it finding the net but Derry deserved the win.

Derry won the toss but elected the play against stiff Athletic Grounds breeze but the opening half has a curious mix of Derry possession and Armagh defensive resolve.

Indeed with the first 30 minutes up, the score stood at 0-1 a-piece and even two injury time Armagh points from Oisin King and Michael McConville failed to spark much life in the home crowd who had watched Armagh flood the defence and Derry refuse to kick ball away, meaning the sides turned around at 0-3 to 0-1.

Paddy Campbell's Oak Leafers set up with Magherafelt's Shea McGuckin as sweeper, Armagh responding in kind with Aidan McCluskey handed the Orchard free role although Ciaran McKeever opted to use Mark McKeever and King inside with Caolan Reavey at half-forward and drop everyone else back inside their own '45' and waiting to win turnover ball to counter.

Except Derry didn't kick ball in. Faced with the packed defence and the considerable wind, Derry opted to maintain possession and so stalemate ensued for most of the half.

Indeed, Armagh's reluctance to push forward offered Derry easy primary possession of almost every Oak Leaf kick-out and the used that possession to dictate a slow first half tempo.

Still, Derry created a couple of decent goal chances, the first as early as two minutes when PJ McAleese did well to drive through the middle but dragged his low shot agonisingly wide of the far post.

And that was basically that until the 18th minute when some superb build-up from Enda Downey almost put Donncha Gilmore in for a goal, the forward's final pass just inches too tall for the Steelstown midfielder with the goal at his mercy.

The game finally got it's first score with 20 minutes on the clock, Armagh's James Walsh teeing up Ciaran Donnelly for an excellent opener.

Enda Downey's free cancelled that out five minutes later and with the prospect of the wind to come in the second half, Derry would have happily took the draw at the interval until those late points gave the Orchard County a two point advantage.

The second half was about Derry patience and after waiting 18 minutes for their first score of the second half, the game was won within three minutes of it.

Enda Downey was fouled giving his cousin Matthew the chance to tie the game at 0-3 to 0-3 from the resultant free. Within a minute, Matthew, son of Henry Downey, had sent over a lovely point from play and Derry were ahead for the first time.

If that was good, then McAleese's goal, two minutes after Downey's second was the icing on the Derry cake and took the game away from Armagh.

Daran O'Callaghan hit a lovely free against the wind but when Enda Downey split the posts from wide out on the right, Derry had the cushion the see the game out but both sides will want to see an improvement next time out.

Derry scorers: PJ McAleese (1-0), Enda Downey (0-3, 3f), Matthew Downey (0-2, 1f),

Armagh scorers: Ciaran Donnelly (0-1), Oisin King (0-1, 1f), Michael McConville (0-1), Dara O'Callaghan, 56mins;

DERRY: Padraig Hasson, Odhran McLarnon, Ronan McFaul, Jamie Duggan, James McGurk, Aidan McCluskey, Lee Brady, Tiernan Higgins, Donncha Gilmore, Matthew Downey, Enda Downey, Calum Downey, Shea McGuckin, PJ McAleese, Oran McMenamin.

(Subs) Mark Dixon for D Gilmore, 36mins; Ryan Lennox for L Brady (inj), 39mins; Charlie Diamond for M Dixon (Black card), 40mins; Daniel Madden for C Downey, 55mins; Adam McGonigle for O McLarnon (inj), 61mins; Jude Og Moore for PJ McAleese, 63mins;

Wides: 5/3

Yellow cards: T Higgins, 53mins; PJ McAleese, 55mins;

Black Cards: Marc Dixon, 45mins (replaced by Charlie Diamond)

ARMAGH: Shea Magill, Peter McGrane, Ryan Shortt, Odhran McKeown, Lee Rice, Sean McVerry, Redmond French, James Walsh, Dara O’Callaghan, Michael McConville, Ciaran Donnelly, Sean Quigley, Caolan Reavey, Mark McKeever, Oisin King.

(Subs) Rory Kearney for S Quigley, 27mins; Jack Cunningham for J Walsh, HT; Sean Rocks for C Donnelly, 39mins; Adam Garvey for M McConville, 43mins; Shea Vallely for R French, 56mins; Niall Dummigan for L Rice, 58mins;

Wides: 2/2

Yellow cards: Sean Quigley, 24mins; Oisin King, 46mins; R Kearney, 48mins;

Referee: Kieran Eannetta (Tyrone).