Armaghs win keeps qualification hopes alive

January 12, 2015

Dr McKenna Cup Section C: Antrim 1-04 Armagh 2-11

A comfortable 2-11 to 1-4 win over Antrim kept the Orchard County hopes of a semi-final place in the Dr McKenna Cup very much alive going into Wednesday night’s game with St Mary’s. Armagh will play St Mary’s, who are pointless following a 1-07 to 0-09 defeat by Antrim followed by a 1-12 to 0-03 loss to Tyrone knowing that a high scoring victory at the Athletic Grounds on Wednesday night @ 7-30pm could net them the best runner-up position and a spot in the last four the following Sunday.

What a difference a week makes with the electric atmosphere of the Athletic Grounds replaced by a cold and windy Creggan and a game to suit the day as Armagh, without being extended, controlled proceedings in both halves. There was a little worry at the interval whether a wind assisted 4 point lead would be enough to withstand the home fightback but those fears were quickly dispelled by an early second half Oisin Mac Iomhair goal that doubled the half-time lead 1-7 to 0-2. Stefan Forker was the main man in the first half notching 4 points as well as missing a few with the impressive Mickey Murray and Niall McConville accounting for the other Armagh points.

There must have been some strong words in the Armagh dressing room during the break as they came out a lot more focused, upped the tempo and intensity of the game and retained possession a lot better than they had been doing. Antrim fell some 10 points in arrears during that second half having only matched their first half tally of points. A second yellow card for Jamie Clarke saw him sent off but Armagh responded to this setback with a Stefan Forker goal. There was even more late drama, which could yet prove costly for the winners, the concession of a converted penalty that left the final score 2-11 to 1-4.

The makeup of the last 4 for the semi-finals is very much up in the air following this weekends results and it will probably come down to the mathematicians to decide who the best runner-up spot will go to. Holders Tyrone will be expected to beat Antrim to top Armagh’s group with the Orchard County also expected to defeat St Mary’s to reach the 4 point mark. In Section A all four teams have 2 points so the Down v UUJ and Cavan v Monaghan games on Wednesday night have all to play for. In Section B Fermanagh are top with 4 points but have to go to Donegal who have 2 points. Derry, who were surprised by Fermanagh, face pointless Queens.

This exciting McKenna Cup action only heightens the eagerness for National League action that commences at the end of the month.