Armagh win bragging rights
Tuesday, 10 December 2013
ARMAGH won bragging rights in the first local derby of the season, the Orchard men edging past Down in the O'Fiaich Cup by a single score.
In an always entertaining and high-scoring first round tie at Armagh City's Athletics Grounds on Thursday evening, the home side were worth their victory, albeit by just one point.
True both sides were keeping their powder dry for more important battles in the new year, but as with all Armagh v Down matches, winning was important.
Still giving game time to youngsters and getting more experienced players up to speed was the obvious priority with both Armagh's Paul Grimley and Down's James McCartan.
The Down boss would have been happy to see big Peter Fitzpatrick back in the red and black (after two years in Australia) while ace dead-ball kicker Liam Doyle, who has been injury-plagued in recent seasons, looked fit and strong.
Meanwhile Connaire Harrison, Conleth O'Hare and Niall Madine, who all did well, could feature in McCartan's plans later on in the season.
From an Armagh viewpoint the athletic Rory Grugan looked on fire as did Oisin McKeever who grabbed a personal tally of a goal and three points. Niall McConville and the Crossmaglen duo of Paul Hughes and Kyle Carragher were also impressive in Orange shirts.
Orchard's Phelim O'Neill got the opening point of the match but then Down hit back with four unanswered scores, these coming from Doyle, Sean Bell and a couple from Damian Turley.
In a pattern that was to be repeated throughout the match Armagh reversed the lead via Oisin McKeever, McConville, Carragher and Aaron Findon
But on 25 minutes Rory Grugan fired home a goal of top quality. After a slick, quick Brian Mallon free, Carragher set up Grugan who rifled low into the net.
At the interval the home side led by a point (1-05 to 0-07) after Down scores from Brendan McArdle and a Doyle free.
The first half was entertaining but the second period even more so. Down restarted in attacking mode and in the first 10 minutes had plundered five points to lead by four, Fitzpatrick, substitute Niall Madine, Ryan Mallon, Harrison (free) and Doyle (free) each getting on the scoresheet.
But Armagh then turned on the heat and in the next 15 minutes won the match. After points from Oisin McKeever, Ciaran McKeever and Ciaran Rafferty, Oisin McKeever scored a vital goal on 51 minutes, the half forward latching onto a Carragher pass before drilling past Down keeper Shane Harrison.
The same McKeever added another point as did McConville, Rafferty, Aidan Forker and Brian Mallon. And at this stage with just eight minutes left, there seemed little hope for Down.
But the men in red and black responded with character, and after substitute Ciaran McGrady pointed, Harrison grabbed a goal on 65 minutes, the full forward firing past the Armagh substitute keeper Matthew McNeice at the second attempt.
Madine slotted over a further two points with McGrady also on target in the final five minutes. However, scores from McConville and substitute Stefan Forker ensured a narrow victory for Armagh.
Armagh: P Rodgers, P Hughes, G McCooey, M Murray, C Rafferty (0-2), C Vernon, R Grugan (1-0), A Findon (0-1), P O'Neill (0-1), A Forker (0-1), B Mallon (0-1), O McKeever (1-03), C McKeever (0-1), K Carragher (0-1) and N McConville (0-03). Subs: A Mallon, K O'Rourke, M McNeice, K Toner, S Forker (0-1) and J Hanratty.
Down: S Harrison, O Costello, P Turley, S McNamee, C Garvey, B McArdle (0-1), D O'Hagan, L Devlin, P Fitzpatrick (0-1), D Turley (0-1), C O'Hare, R Mallon (0-1), S Bell (0-1), C Harrison (1-03) and L Doyle (0-3). Subs: C McGrady (02), A Doherty, N Madine and D McCartan.
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