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Armagh stun Down to bridge 65-year final gap

Armagh hurlers claimed a place in their first Ulster hurling final since 1946 by overcoming a shell-shocked Down by a single point at Casement Park.

Down were overwhelming favourites before the game, but weren't able to shake off a dogged Armagh side who ended a 65-year Ulster final drought and now face Antrim in the decider in two weeks' time. The wet and blustery conditions contributed to a disjointed game which produced just 13 scores from play.

A low-scoring first half ended with Down one point to the good,

0-7 to 0-6. All six of Armagh's first half scores came from frees, with Ryan Gaffney scoring 0-4 from close range and Ruairí McGrattan slotting over two from distance.

The sides were level six times in the first half, James Coyle got Down off the mark after five minutes, while Paul Braniff also added three first half efforts for the Ardsmen.

Both sides created goal chances, the pick of which fell to Down's Benny Ennis, who somehow shot wide at the second attempt.

The first goal chance of the second half fell to John Corvan from the penalty spot, but the corner forward blasted high and wide. Seconds later, Gareth Johnson looked to have set up a traditional Ulster final against Antrim when poking home on 45 minutes for a 1-7 to 0-8 lead, and as the game approached full-time, Down were still ahead by two.

However, three unanswered scores from Gaffney, McGrattan and Corvan sealed a famous victory.

Man of the Match: R Gaffney (Armagh)

Scorers -- Armagh: R Gaffney 0-7 (6f), R McGrattan 0-3, (2f 1 '65') C Corvan 0-2, K McKernan, M Lennon 0-1 each. Down: G Johnson 1-2 (2f), P Braniff 0-3 (2f), E Clarke 0-2, M Ennis, J Coyle, K McGarry 0-1 each.

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Armagh -- S Doherty 7; B Mallon 7, C Clifford 6, JJ Hughes 6; B McCormack 6, R McGrattan 8, N Curry 7; K McKernan 6, J Corvan 6; C Carvill 5; R Gaffney 9, M Lennon 7; C Corvan 7, F Woods 5, M Moen 6. Subs: D Carvill 6 for F Woods

Down -- Graham Clarke 8; M Hughes 7, C Coulter 6, S Ennis 7; K McGarry 6, C Woods 6, M Ennis 5; A Savage 5, E Clarke 7; S Nicholson 5, P Braniff 7, S Clarke 6; B Ennis 5, G Johnson 6, J Coyle 6. Subs: Gabriel Clarke 5 for C Woods, A Clarke 5 for P Braniff, D Hughes 6 for S Nicholson

Ref -- E Hassan (Derry)

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