Armagh and Derry reach final

December 9, 2013


Despite the fact that there are still two group matches, Armagh v Derry on Wed Night and Down v Louth on Friday night, both at the Athletic Grounds they are indeed futile as the final on Sunday Dec 15, at Crossmaglen will be between Armagh and Derry. Armagh won their opening two games 2-15 to 1-17 against Down and 0-14 to 2-7 against Louth whilst the Oak Leaf county beat Louth 3-11 to 2-10 and followed up with a 1-11 to 1-10 win over Down.

The revived O’Fiaich Cup created its own bit of history as it became the competition which saw the introduction of the new “Black Card” system. Armagh opened the competition against Down, unveiling a new style jersey which had for the first time sponsors on the back and the front of the jersey but there were no cards of any description in sight. It was left to a Down and Derry man to go into the history books as referee Brendan Rice issued the first ever “Black Card” to Coleraine clubman Declan Mullan in front of a dismal crowd on Friday night.

Armagh 2-15 Down 1-17

Armagh fielded eight debutants in an experimental lineup and St Paul’s midfielder Phelim O’Neill marked his debut in style, landing an excellent point inside the opening minute. Down kicked four points in succession: Liam Doyle, Damian Turley (2) and Sean Bell, to lead by three after six minutes. Armagh responded with 3 points of their own as the excellent Oisin McKeever pointed on eight minutes with Niall McConville and busy full-forward  Kyle Carragher registering to restore parity. Connaire Harrison and impressive Armagh midfielder Aaron Findon traded points before the alert Brian Mallon flashed a quick free to Kyle Carragher who transferred to the onrushing Rory Grugan. The Ballymacnab forward, operating from half-back did not forget his roots as he fired past goalkeeper Shane Harrison for the game’s opening goal. Down reacted well to this setback however and a brace of points from Brendan McArdle and Liam Doyle left Armagh only a point to the good at the break- 1-5 to 0-7.

The Mourne men made a whirlwind start to the second half blitzing Armagh with five points in as many minutes from Peter Fitzpatrick, Niall Madine, Ryan Mallon, Connaire Harrison and a third from the returning from injury Liam Doyle. The hosts looked in big trouble but Annaghmore’s Oisin had other ideas as he responded with 1-2 of his own, finishing off a terrific move between Feidhlim O’Neiil and Carragher to the Down net. Aidan Forker, Brian Mallon, Niall McConville, Carragher and a second from Ciaran Rafferty helped turn a 4 point deficit for Armagh into a 6 point lead.

A Down point from Ciaran McGrady, eight minutes from time sparked Down back to life as it was immediately followed by a Connaire Harrison goal. When Niall Madine pointed for the visitors, only the minimum separated the teams. Armagh were not to be denied, however and Niall McConville’s third point from play and a magnificent score from substitute Steffan Forker eased the pressure but James McCartan’s charges were not finished off just yet and two late points from Ciaran McGrady and Niall Madine meant that only the minimum separated the sides at the long whistle.

Armagh : Paudi Rodgers (Lissummon); Paul Hughes (Crossmaglen), Gary McCooey (St Patrick’s), Michael Murray (St Patrick’s); Ciaran Rafferty ( Madden,0-2), Charlie Vernon (Harps), Rory Grugan ( Ballymacnab,1-0), Aaron Findon ( St Peter’s,0-1), Phelim O’Neill ( St Paul’s,0-1); Aiden Forker ( Maghery,0-1), Brian Mallon (Tir na nOg,0-1), Oisin Mac Íomhair (Annaghmore,1-4), Ciarán Mac Íomhair (Annaghmore), Kyle Carragher ( Crossmaglen, 0-1), Niall McConville (St Peter’s, 0-3) Subs Used: Matthew McNeice (Annaghmore), Andy Mallon (Parnell’s), Kieran Toner (Granemore), Johnny Hanratty (Crossmaglen), Steffan Forker ( Maghery, 0-1), Kevin O’Rourke (Mayobridge)

U21 Armagh 0-14 louth 2-7

Armagh fielded their U-21 squad for their second O Fiaich Cup game in Crossmaglen against Louth. Steve McDonnell saw his charges show tremendous resolve to withstand a strong second half Louth challenge, to record a one point win 0-14 to 2-7 when it looked as if they were going to be over-run

Wind assisted Armagh raced into a 4 point lead inside 8 minutes as Michael McKenna, Eddie English and two from home player Callum Cumiskey all found the target. A converted free from full-forward Kevin Rogers opened the Wee County account as then English and Declan Byrne exchanged points on the quarter hour. Four unanswered points from Joe McElroy, Paul McGeown (2) and Diarmuid O’Hagan extended the lead to 9-2. Louth responded in style as half-back Keith McLoughlin volleyed the loose ball between the uprights, followed by a terrific goal from midfielder John Kermode whose piledriver gave impressive Armagh goalkeeper Noel McCoy no chance from close range. St Michael’s, Killean keeper McCoy pulled off two point blank saves from Stephen Campbell, one in each half and was not far away from stopping the Louth penalty that beat him in the second half. Michael Gogarty pointed for Armagh to make it 0-10 to 1-3 but Eoghan O’Connell immediately replied for the visitors. A foul on English enabled McGeown get his third point of the half which concluded with what looked an insufficient 4 point lead 0-11 to 1-4.

Wind assisted Louth quickly overhauled the deficit to take the lead within 6 minutes of the re-start. Brian White from play opened the second half scoring. A foul on William Woods resulted in a penalty which he, having dusted himself down, fired to the net and immediately from the kick-out the same player pointed Louth into the lead for the first and only time in the match.

Armagh dug deep as both teams made a raft of substitutions with scores at a premium. Michael Gogarty from a free brought Armagh level. An 18 minutes scoreless drought was ended by a super lead point for the Orchard boys from Ethan Rafferty but it was instantly cancelled out by a reply from Declan Byrne with 7 minutes remaining on the clock. Armagh substitute Conor McNally had no hesitation in stepping up to a free in the dying moments. The Derrynoose man slotted the leather between the uprights to book Armagh their place in the final. This was a fine showing by the Armagh U-21’s ,especially defensively, against a Louth side sprinkled with experienced players who actually scored more against the breeze than with it. If Stevie’s charges will be given a second run –out in the dead rubber mid-week game against Derry remains to be seen.

Armagh- Noel McCoy (Killean), Sean Kierans (Killeavy), Seamus Kelly (Silverbridge), Ciaran McCooey (St Patrick’s), Diarmuid O Hagan (Clan Na Gael, 0-1), Padraig Crilly (Ballymacnab), Joe McElroy (Armagh Harps), Aaron Findon (St Peter’s), Blaine Malone (Carrickcruppen), Michael Gogarty  (St Peters,0-2), Miceal McKenna (Grange,0-1), Ethan Rafferty  (Grange 0-1), Eddie English (Mullaghbawn 0-2), Paul McGeown (Sarsfields,0-3), Callum Comiskey (Crossmaglen, 0-2) Subs used- Aidan Nugent (St Patrick’s), Fionnan Burns (Silverbridge), Johnny McGurgan (Tir na nOg), Brendan McCarron (Clann Eireann),

Shea Reavey (Annaghmore), Conor McNally ( Derrynoose, 0-1)