Third quarter kills off students

January 6, 2014

Armagh 1-17 Queen’s 0-15It was a blistering third quarter performance from the home side when they outscored Queen’s 1-6 to 0-1 that helped Armagh to a winning start to 2014 with a 1-17 to 0-15 victory over the students at a windswept Athletic Grounds in the opening game in Section A of the Power NI Dr McKenna Cup.

Queen’s with the aid of the breeze took a 2 point lead with Armagh men Ryan Rafferty and Tony Donnelly firing over the first two points. Robbie Tasker opened the home account 5 minutes in but a quarter of an hour later Tasker was to receive a black card which brought a halt to his bright start to the game. The game’s top scorer, Ryan Murray, stretched the lead to 3-1 with the first of 6 points for the Antrim player. Oisín Mac Íomhair grabbed the first of a 3 point contribution but Murray replied immediately to leave it 4-2 to the visitors after 10 minutes. Two minutes later Armagh were back on level terms through Mac Íomhair and Eugene McVerry whose goal attempt was brilliantly tipped over by goalkeeper Michael Cunningham the first of 4 terrific saves from the Down custodian. The impressive Stefan Campbell edged Armagh ahead on the quarter hour mark. Harry Og Conlon levelled and the Tyrone man regained the lead for the students with the next point quickly followed by another from Murray leaving the visitors 7-5 to the good with 5 minutes plus added time remaining in the half. Substitute Stefan Forker replacing Tasker got on the scoresheet as did Ethan Rafferty from a free and the sides were level once again. It looked as if Armagh would lead at the break when Niall McConville pointed but Murray had the final say of the half with a point to level for the fourth time as they retired at 8 points apiece.

Any notion that it would be one way traffic in the second half for Armagh was dispelled inside 47 seconds as a Murray free gave Queen’s a tonic start. But that was as good as it got for the students who were hit with 1-6 without reply. Stephen Harold made it 9 all. Ciaran Rafferty, Ethan Rafferty (free), Stefan Forker (best point of the game) had Armagh three in front that was soon doubled by the arrival of the game’s only goal. A high delivery from Campbell was brilliantly fielded by team Captain, Brian Mallon, who then lost possession but McConville was on hand to shoot but his effort was saved by Cunningham but Niall was not to be denied as he blasted home the rebound. Points from Campbell and Ethan Rafferty followed to make it an 8 point game and effectively wrap up the win with 18 minutes still left to play.

Credit to the students who never gave up and Ryan Rafferty who had opened the scoring got their first score for 20 minutes. Oisín Mac Íomhair took his personal tally to three points before Queen’s hit three without reply as Conlon, McGrady and Murray pointed to make it 1-15 to 0-13. Any late surge from the visitors was further stifled as McConville and Forker took the Orchard tally to 1-17. But just like it had started with two Queen’s points so it finished as McGrady, from a free and play, left the final score at 1-17 to 0-15.

In truth Armagh never really looked pushed in this contest and always looked as if they had another gear to click into. The wides tally is something to worry about then on the other hand 1-17 to go with them shows the attacking mentality of the side which has continued since the O Fiaich Cup. Next up is Donegal at the Athletic Grounds and it will present an entirely different challenge. Having lost their opener on home soil to Tyrone 1-7 to 0-13 Donegal will need something from Sunday’s match the keep their competition hopes alive.

Armagh – Niall Geoghegan, Andy Mallon, Charlie Vernon, Gary McCooey, Mark Shields, Kieran Toner, Ciaran Rafferty (0-1); Stephen Harold (0-1), Ethan Rafferty (0-3), Oisín Mac Íomhair (0-3), Brian Mallon, Stefan Campbell (0-2); Robbie Tasker (0-1), Eugene McVerry  (0-1), Niall McConville (1-2) Subs: Stefan Forker (0-3) on for Tasker, Ciarán Mac Íomhair for McConville, Kevin O’Rourke for McVerry, Miceal McKenna for Rafferty, Eddie English for Mallon

Queen’s-Michael Cunningham (Down), Peter Quinn (Derry), Owen Costello (Down), Ryan Mallon (Down), Che Cullen (Fermanagh),  Darren O’Hanlon (Louth), Tony Donnelly (Armagh) 0-1,  Ciaran McCartan (Down), Dermot McAleese (Antrim), Martin McElhinney (Donegal), Ryan Jones (Fermanagh), Conor Maginn (Down), Harry Og Conlon (Tyrone) 0-3, Ryan Rafferty (Armagh) 0-2, Ryan Murray (Antrim), 0-6 Subs: Ronan McGrady (Antrim) 0-3 for Jones.