Supersub McNamee inspires Down as thrilling comeback secures title
COMEBACK queens Down produced another miracle comeback to stun Armagh at Parnell Park.
Down had overturned an 11-point deficit to reel in Longford in a dramatic semi-final before they came from seven points down to win this entertaining Ulster derby.
Benji Ward's substitutions did the trick as Sinead McNamee created both of Down's late goals – scored by player of the match Kyla Trainor and McNamee's fellow sub Hazel Jordan.
Trainor hauled Down back into contention with a 49th-minute goal before Jordan settled matters with a 55th-minute palmed effort, her first touch after coming on.
Trainor reflected: "Armagh were on top for most of the game but in the last 15 minutes, we hit them hard and kept them on the back foot."
Armagh had six O'Connor Cup medallists in their starting line-up and the mastermind of that third-level success for Queen's University Belfast, James Daly, is also in charge of the Orchard County.
He admitted: "It's still hard to take. We looked good for 50 minutes but they scored a goal with 11 minutes to go and the a**e fell out of it.
"But some of our girls need a wee break now. It's been one hard slog from Armagh winning the All-Ireland intermediate last year to the O'Connor Cup and back with Armagh again.
"One thing that really bugs me is that the two teams that get to the final should be promoted, with the bottom two relegated. There are three or four teams in Division 2 that we're as good as but we have to keep fighting and hopefully we'll get there."
In a free-ridden encounter, Armagh played with the strong wind from the start and, despite registering 10 wides, they led by 0-6 to 0-1 at the break. And when the Orchard County registered the opening two points of the second half, it appeared that they would claim a first league crown since Division 2 glory in 2005.
But Down had other ideas and another smash-and-grab raid gave them the title.
Scorers – Down: K Trainor 1-1, H Jordan 1-0, L Cunningham, N Ferris (2fs) 0-2 each, G McClean 0-1f. Armagh: S McCleary 0-6 (2fs), C O'Hanlon, F McKenna 0-2 each, K Mallon 0-1.
DOWN – E Joyce 6; C McKibben 6, L Sharvin 6, O Boyle 6; E Keane 6, N McGowan 6, S Fegan 6; C Fitzpatrick 6, M Doherty 6; G McClean 6, G Kelly 6, O Fegan 6; L Cunningham 7, K Trainor 8, N Ferris 7. Subs: S McNamee 8 for Kelly (41), C McArdle 6 for Doherty (51), H Jordan 7 for O Fegan (53).
ARMAGH – K Daly 6; C Morgan 7, L Brown 6, S Marley 6; S Reel 6, N Marley 6, C McCann 6; C Malone 6, C O'Hanlon 7; M McGuinness 6, F McKenna 6, M Tennyson 5; N Henderson 5, S McCleary 8, K Mallon 6. Subs: S Grey 5 for Tennyson (47), C Lennon 5 for Mallon (51), M McAlinden for McKenna (56).
Ref – G Chapman (Sligo)