Winning start for Armagh

January 8, 2018

● Bank of Ireland Dr. McKenna Cup Down 0-13 Armagh 2-12

A win for Armagh over Down at any time brings satisfaction but to start your 2018 campaign with a 2-12 to 0-13 victory at Pairc Esler will be all the more pleasing for the team management and players plus the good Armagh support that went to Newry on a cold Wednesday night for the opening match in Group B of the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup.

A crowd of over 1,500 were treated to a very enjoyable competitive game as both managements gave outings to fringe players and added a few new faces to the inter-county scene. Forkhill’s Patrick Burns featured for Armagh with Down also fielding Kilcoo’s Aaron Morgan and Glenn’s Ronan Millar for their county debuts.

Down bagged a second minute lead through a cracking Conor Maginn effort but it was Armagh who dominated the remainder of the half after replying to the opening score with 3 unanswered points the Orchard men ended the half leading 9-5, with four different scorers on the scoreboard. Oisin Mac Iomhair converted 3 first half frees with second free taker Aidan Forker registering 2 from placed balls but also contributed two from play in a 3 minute spell with eventual Man of the Match recipient Culloville’s Niall Rowland also on target with a point.

Debutante Millar left his mark on the game as he emerged as the home team’s top marksman with 5 points (3 frees) with his 3 first half points adding to the Maginn opener and their fifth point of the half from Anthony Doherty as the hosts struggled to cope with dominant Armagh midfielders Stephen Sheridan and Charlie Vernon.

Armagh began the second half on the front foot as a Rowland opening point was followed by a Andrew Murnin goal as he reacted quickest to a loose ball following goalkeeper Shane Harrisons parried save from a Forker blockbuster. Trailing by 8 points Down replied with a pointed Doherty free followed by one from play from Sean Doran. The Down mini-revival was abruptly halted by a second Armagh green flag. A terrific defense splitting run from Shane O’Neill’s Greg McCabe saw him offload to Ronan Lappin who calmly stepped inside a defender to fire low past Harrison 2-10 to 0-7 some 11 minutes into the second half.

As Armagh rested on their laurels Down were not going to lie down and hit 5 unanswered points in a 6 minute purple patch, as McKernan , Millar (2), substitutes O’Hagan and Mooney (2) pointed to breath new life into a faltering contest as the home fans cranked up the noise level. Armagh regained their composure and stifled the Down scoring charge as a couple of chances at either end went a begging as we entered the final 10 minutes of play. Maghery’s Lappin broke a 16 minute Armagh barren scoring spell by adding a crucial point to his earlier goal. And two minutes later Rowland fired over his third point of the match from play to effectively kill off the Down challenge.

Armagh: B Hughes; A McKay, A Forker (0-4, 0-2 frees), P Hughes (0-1); B Donaghy, N Rowland (0-3), M Shields; C Vernon, P Burns; O Mac Iomhair (0-3 frees), A Murnin (1-0), R Lappin (1-1); G McCabe, J McElroy, S Sheridan.

Subs: R Grugan for A Murnin (48), A Findon for S Sheridan (57), M McKenna for N Rowland (68); R Kennedy for R Lappin (70), O Lappin for A McKay (72)

Down: S Harrison; C Flanagan, G McGovern, K McKernan (0-1); J Bell, A Doherty (0-2 frees), J Flynn; P Turley, N McParland; S Millar, C Maginn (0-1), C Poland; R Millar (0-5, 0-3 frees), S Dornan (0-1), A Morgan

Subs: B O’Hagan (0-1) for S Dornan (41), C Mooney (0-2) for J Bell (41), C Francis for A Morgan (46), S Murray for R Millar (66)

Referee: S Laverty (Antrim).