Armagh progress to the final

December 5, 2016

O’Fiaich Cup Armagh 2-20 Derry 3-13

Armagh came from 7 points behind to claim a place in the O’Fiaich Cup final with a 2-20 to 3-13 victory over Derry at St Oliver Plunkett Park, Crossmaglen.

Derry were far more experimental in their starting line-out than Armagh who handed senior debuts to Ben Crealey (Maghery) Conor White (Armagh Harps) and Oisin O’Neill (Crossmaglen Rangers). Armagh raced into a 2 point lead with Ethan Rafferty opening the scoring from a free following a foul on full-forward Pearse Casey and a minute later Rory Grugan doubled the lead with a point from play. Derry keeper Ben McKinless pushed a Casey goal attempt onto the upright and it was cleared to safety. Armagh’s Paul Hughes was black carded by referee Martin McNally for a hand trip and was replaced by Maghery’s Ciaran Higgins. The hosts were not turning a lot of possesion into scores as James Kielt from a free opened the visitors account 15 minutes into the game. Two minutes later Kielt, sailed the leveller between the sticks from 53 metres. Oisin MacIomhair regained the lead for Armagh only for his rival number 15 Danny Tallon to level with Jack Doherty pointing Derry ahead for the first time from the kick-out. Mac Iomhair, from play levelled matters for the third time but Derry hit a purple patch scoring 1-4 in an 8 minute spell. Michael Warnock and Niall Loughlin points were followed by a Barry Grant goal and as the half hour mark approached Loughlin and Tallon had stretched the Derry lead to 7 points 1-8 to 0-4. Man of the Match Oisin O’Neill began to make his presence felt firing over a couple of points followed by an Ethan Rafferty converted “45” to cut the deficit at the short whistle to 1-8 to 0-7.

Derry made no fewer tham 7 changes for the start of the second half with Armagh introducing Stefan Campbell for White. Three minutes after the re-start Grugan pointed a free following a foul on Campbell who then pointed after gaining possession from the kick-out. Kielt was black carded for Derry as Armagh should have goaled with Casey’s fisted effort beating the advancing keeper but dropping over the bar. Loughlin increased the Derry lead to 2 points with a pointed free but Armagh hit back with 5 unanswered points inside 4 minutes as Higgins, Mac Iomhair, Casey, Mac Iomhair and Higgins turned a 2 point deficit into a 3 point lead 0-15 to 1-9. Derry substitute Niall Toner weaved his way through a maze of defenders to shoot past Morrison in the Armagh goals and suddenly out of nowhere Derry were back on level terms. Armagh’s response to the goal was instant as O’Neill fielded Morrisons kick-out laid the ball off to Rafferty who then found raiding half-back Joe McElroy who raised the green flag at the other end. Two points from O’Neill one from play and one from a free extended the lead to 5 points before Loughlin pointed a Derry free which was cancelled by Aiden Forker who completed a sweeping 6 man move with his opening score. On the hour mark impressive sub Higgins was on hand to tap home a second Armagh goal into an empty net following great approach work by Forker and Campbell after O’Neill had gained initial possession.

Derry kept on battling with Caris McWilliams venturing out of defence to point quickly followed by a great strike by sub Conor Doherty which flew past Morrison for a third Derry goal with McWilliams adding his second point to make it 3-13 to 2-18 with a couple of minutes remaining. Team Captain Aidan Forker chipped in with his second point following great work by McElroy but it was star debutant O’Neill who finished the scoring with a pointed free.

Armagh will play the winner of the second semi-final between holders Tyrone and Louth which will be played next Sunday with the final on Sunday Dec 18 with both games in Crossmaglen at 1-30pm.

Scorers- Armagh; Oisin O Neill 0-5, Ciaran Higgins 1-2, Oisin Mac Iomhair 0-4, Joe McElroy 1-0,Rory Grugan 0-2, Aidan Forker 0-2, Ethan Rafferty 0-2, Eugene Casey 0-2 and Stefan Campbell 0-1

Derry- Niall Loughlin 0-4, Barry Grant 1-0, Conor Doherty 1-0, Niall Toner 1-0,Danny Tallon 0-2, Caris McWilliams 0-2, James Kielt 0-2, Jack Doherty 0-1, Michael Warnock 0-1 Dean Curran 0-1