Penalty turns the match
● McKenna Cup Derry 3-10 Armagh 2-12
A converted Emmett McGuckin penalty, awarded for a foot block on the spot kick scorer, turned this entertaining McKenna Cup match at Owenbeg back in favor of the home side, Derry. Armagh were after overcoming a 1-5 to 1-3 interval deficit to take a one point lead 1-7 to 1-6 through debutant John Magill (Carrickcruppen’s, John started the game in place of Paul Hughes (in the only change to the two selected starting line-outs) when the penalty propelled the host into a lead that was never relinquished.
Armagh began the game in whirlwind fashion with Culloville’s Niall Rowland opening the scoring with a point followed by an Anto Duffy goal but wastefulness in front of the posts (5 wides in the opening 15 minutes) saw them fail to add to their tally before Derry registered their opening score on 20 minutes courtesy of a “45” from the boot of Niall Loughlin. A Rory Grugan pointed free stretched the lead to 4 points before that lead was halved following points from Aidan McLaughlin and McGuckin by the 27th minute. A second Loughlin point left the minimum between them but that advantage was doubled via an Oisin MacIomhair free. Derry finished the half on a high as McLaughlin goaled and Loughlin notched his third point of the half to give them a 1-5 to 1-3 interval lead.
The second half began with Armagh introducing Conor White and Ben Crealey for McConville and McCoy. Mac Iomhair cut the deficit to the minimum but Ryan Bell quickly replied with a like point for Derry. Points from Crealey and Ciaran McKeever had drawn Armagh level before Magill gave them the lead. The controversial penalty goal was replied to with a second Crealey point which was cancelled out by Derry debutant Michael Hannock, who made the score 2-7 to 1-8.
When Peter Hagan linked up with Enda Lynn on 55 minutes, for goal number three for Derry, the writing was on the wall for the visitors. Loughlin pointed to put Derry 6 points up 3-8 to 1-8 with 11 minutes remaining. Derry points from Bell and Patrick Kearney were traded with a MacIomhair free and a converted “45” from substitute Ethan Rafferty. A last kick of the game goal from impressive full forward Ciaran McKeever left the minimum between the sides but the final whistle denied Armagh the opportunity to snatch a draw.
Kieran McGeeney will be left wondering how Derry were the half -time leaders after seeing his team dominate but not on the scoreboard with a McCoy goal chance in the opening quarter one that got away. Armagh will feel that this is one that they let slip but can get back to winning ways next Sunday when they take on Queen’s at the Athletic Grounds. Queen’s lost their opener to Down 1-11 to 1-8 and with both losers and winners meeting there yet may be something for Armagh to play for at home to Down on Wednesday Jan 18.
Derry: Ben McKinless; Oisin Hegarty, Oisin Duffin, Peter Hagan; Patrick Coney, Jack Doherty, Neil Forester; Gavin O’Neill, Aidan McLaughlin; Gavin O’Neill, Aidan McLaughlin (1-1); Michael Warnock (0-1), Niall Loughlin (0-4,2f, 1 forty-five), Carlus McWilliams; Ryan Bell (0-2), Emmett McGuckin (1-1, 1pen), Benny Heron. (Subs) Enda Lynn (1-0) for G O’Neill, 45mins; Conor Nevin for A McLaughlin, 47mins; Ronan Murphy for E McGuckin, 55mins; Patrick Kearney (0-1) for P Coney, 55mins; Conor McGrogan for M Warnock, 66mins; Mark Lynch for J Doherty, 69mins;
Armagh: Matthew McNiece; Oisin Lappin, Charlie Vernon, John McGill (0-1); Simon McCoy, Niall Rowland (0-1), Ciaran Higgins; Stephen Sheridan, Aaron Findon; Aidan Forker, Niall McConville, Rory Grugan (0-2, 2f); Anthony Duffy (1-0), Ciaran McKeever (1-1), Oisin Mac Iomhair (0-3, 2f). (Subs) Conor White for Niall McConville , H/T; Ben Crealey (0-3) for Simon McCoy, H/T; Jemar Hall for N Rowland, 54mins. Ethan Rafferty (0-1, 1 forty-five) for A Findon, 58mins;
Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermangh)