Captain Grugan Points the way to the final

January 14, 2019

 ● Bank of Ireland Dr. McEenna Cup 2019 Semi-Final Armagh 0-14 Donegal 1-10

Playing a true Captain’s part Rory Grugan send over a 69 th minute winning point which saw Armagh dethrone McKenna Cup holders Donegal 0-14 to 1-10 in a thrilling semi-final encounter at Omagh.

Skipper Grugan who had opened the scoring clinched a final berth next Saturday against Tyrone as his third point of the afternoon took Armagh’s winning start to the campaign to 4. Having showed great character and fighting spirit to overcome an interval 5 point deficit against Monaghan on Wednesday night to eak out a 0-13 to 1-09 to set up this semi-final meeting with the title holders, Kieran McGeeney’s displayed a steely determination to reach the Dr McKenna Cup final a trophy which has donned the Orchard trophy canbinet since 1994.

Having taken the early lead Armagh soon found themselves 3 points in arrears after a brace of points from Jamie Brennan followed Michael Langan’s leveller with their fourth score on 13 minutes coming via a free converted by Ciaran Thompson. Some 8 minutes later Armagh were back on level terms as Jemar Hall, Niall Grimley and Stefan Campbell all scored from play. With a strong wind behind them Donegal responded with a Jason McGee fisted goal after he got on the end of a high ball from Caolan McGonigle following good work from Niall O’Donnell.

Armaghs Jemar Hall and Donegals Ryan McHugh

Armagh’s response to the goal was impressive as they replied with 3 points in six minutes to once again draw level. A Niall Grimley pointed free was added to by Grugan’s second from play and parity was restored 0-7 to 1-4 once Rian O Neill got on the scoresheet. On the half hour a third Jamie Brennan point restored the Donegal lead but Armagh continued their strong finish to the half as a Campbell leveller was followed by a half-time lead point 0-9 to 1-5 courtesy of a Niall Grimley free. Twice in the half Armagh had battled back from a 3 point deficit to give Declan Bonner and his team plenty to ponder for the second half.

Armaghs Rian O Neill and Donegals Caolan Ward

In an extremely tight second half in which scores were at a premium (it yielded only 5 points apiece) there was never more than a point lead as the sides swapped the lead and at the end of play they had been level on 9 occasions. Just as he did in the first half Michael Langan squared matters with the opening point of the half after 5 minutes but a second point from Jemar Hall edged Armagh back into a short-lived lead as Caolan McGonigal levelled inside a minute. With Donegal a lot livelier than in the opening half but finding things difficult against some excellent Armagh defending their third point of the half from Ciaran Thompson put them 1-8 to 0-11 in front. A third point from play from Stefan Campbell followed 2 minutes later another Orchard point from Niall Grimley wrestled the lead back from Donegal. But it was all to play for with 15 minutes left on the clock when Jason McGee made it 1-9 to 0-12.

Armaghs Dtefan Campbell has his eye on target

Stephen Sheridan broke a 6 minute scoring drought with a crucial Armagh point but Jamie Brennan’s fourth point of the day levelled proceedings, as flickering thoughts of possibly seeing a penalty shoot-out filtered through the mind such was the nip and tuck nature of the second half. Whichever team got the next score would be in a commanding position and cometh the hour cometh the man as Ballymacnab’s Grugan playing a Captains part dissected the uprights for what proved to be the match winning point despite the three minutes of injury-time played at Healy Park.

Armagh – B Hughes; C Mackin, R Kennedy, J Morgan; M Shields, B Donaghy, A Forker; S Sheridan (0-1), N Grimley (0-4, 3f); J Hall (0-2), R Grugan (0-3, 1f), R McShane; S Campbell (0-3), R O’Neill (0-1), J Clarke. Subs: G McCabe for A Forker, J Og Burns for R O’Neill, J McElroy for R McShane, C Vernon for J Hall, J Grugan for S Campbell.

Donegal – M A McGinley; C Ward, B McCole, C Morrison; R McHugh, T McClenaghan, P Brennan; H McFadden, J McGee (1-1); M McElhinney, N O’Donnell, C McGonagle (0-1); C Thompson (0-2), M Langan (0-2, 1f), J Brennan (0-4). Subs: E Doherty for C Morrison, P Mogan for T McClenaghan, M O’Reilly for N O’Donnell, O Gallen for M McElhinney.

Armaghs Jamie Clarke eyes up the danger zone