Tuesday 20 February 2018

Armagh stay on track for promotion

Armagh 1-12 Antrim 0-13

Armagh’s Rory Grugan evades the challenge of Antrim’s Conor Hamill at the Athletic Grounds last night. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Armagh’s Rory Grugan evades the challenge of Antrim’s Conor Hamill at the Athletic Grounds last night. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Francis Mooney

The ageless Ciarán McKeever guided Armagh to an unconvincing Ulster derby win at the Athletic Grounds last night, a result that keeps them right on course for promotion.

McKeever hit 1-1 and set up four more scores, before leaving the action to a standing ovation after 54 minutes.

The Armagh defence defend their goal in the dying minutes. Photo: Sportsfile
The Armagh defence defend their goal in the dying minutes. Photo: Sportsfile

But otherwise, this was a toil for a side that somehow lost its recent scoring touch.

A misfiring Armagh shot 11 wides in the opening half, but thanks to McKeever's 15th-minute goal, they were level at the break.

McKeever palmed home at the far post from Stefan Campbell's cross to round off a sweeping move and edge his side in front for the first time.

Earlier, CJ McGourty had steered over a couple of placed balls, and wing-back Paddy McBride raided for a sublime score as the Saffrons fearlessly took the challenge to the home side.

Stephen Beatty of Antrim strikes out at Ciaron O'Hanlon of Armagh. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Stephen Beatty of Antrim strikes out at Ciaron O'Hanlon of Armagh. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

McGourty continued to hit the target, and while no Antrim attacker managed to score from play in the opening half, there was another gem from the exciting McBride.

McKeever's point made it 1-3 to 0-6 at the break, and the veteran had a hand in his side's next two scores, as Aaron McKay and Rory Grugan eased the home side ahead

Stubborn Antrim refused to wilt, and while they were on the back foot for long stretches, they broke with purpose to stay with Kieran McGeeney's men.

McGourty was the man with the cool head and the lethal left foot which had the sides level for a sixth time, but full back Charlie Vernon rallied the Orchard troops with two superb points.

It looked as if Antrim's resistance had finally been broken, but they fought back, and had a chance to go level, but Blaine Hughes pulled off a terrific save from a McGourty penalty

Antrim finished with 13 men, after straight red cards for Murray and Stephen Beatty, while Armagh's Stephen Sheridan also saw red in a bad-tempered close to the tie.

Scorers - Armagh: C McKeever 1-1, G McParland, C Vernon 0-2 each, J Clarke, R Grugan, N Grimley, S Sheridan, A Duffy, A Forker, A McKay 0-1 each.
Antrim: CJ McGourty 0-9 (7f, 1 '45), P McBride 0-2, C Murray, B Bradley 0-1 each.
Armagh: B Hughes; J Morgan, C Vernon, P Hughes; N Rowland, B Donaghy, A McKay; S Sheridan, B Crealey; N Grimley, G McParland, R Grugan; S Campbell, C McKeever, J Clarke.Subs: A Forker for Crealey (32), C O'Hanlon for Grimley (41), A Duffy for Campbell (51), O O'Neill for McKeever (54), S Heffron for Rowland (60), Findon for Forker (BC 67)
Antrim: C Kerr; C Hamill, P Gallagher, P Healy; P McBride, D Lynch, P McAleer; J Dowling, S Beatty; K Niblock, R McCann, M Fitzpatrick; CJ McGourty, C Murray, B Bradley.
Subs: N Delargey for McCann (45), S McVeigh for Dowling (47), O Eastwood for Lynch (BC 72)
Referee: N Cullen (Fermanagh)

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