Sports

Orchard replay after Antrim raid

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

IN a game full of entertainment, excitement, incident and drama, Armagh U21, after twice looking to have the game won handsomely, failed to close out a determined Antrim side, writes John Morrison.
Armagh will wonder how they were unable to secure a win in both normal time and extra-time.
The Orchard youngsters led by seven in the final quarter of normal time and by six at the half-way stage of extra-time.
Antrim to their credit, never gave up competing and as a result found opportunities to claw their way back.
In the first quarter, Antrim were the lively side. Ryan Murray opened the scoring for the visitors but a Paul McGeown point soon restored parity.
In the 10th minute, Shea Freeman (black carded) fouled Murray and full-forward Ronan McGrady converted the penalty to give Antrim the lead.
Play became end-to-end as Paul McGeown exchanged points with O'Grady (free). Slowly the balance of control was shifting as a now composed Armagh endorsed their increase in momentum to hit three points without reply from Paul McGeown,
Ethan Rafferty (45') and captain Miceal McKenna to leave the sides level at 0-5 to 1-2 going in at the interval.
On the restart, Callum Cumiskey quickly established a first time lead for Armagh with a good point. It was short-lived, however, as a countering Antrim equalised and went back in front through Quinn and McBride. Armagh responded quickly and positively and after Ethan Rafferty coolly converted a penalty and Eddie English added a point, the Orchard were in firm control.
Murray and O'Grady points stopped Armagh short for a time but soon the
hosts were back in cruise control. Powering forward a litany of Armagh attacks brought first points from Cumiskey, Miceal McKenna and Paul McGeown (2) and then, after Murray hit one on the break for Antrim, Armagh hit three more without reply from Jemar Hall, Eddie English and Ciaron O'Hanlon for a seven point lead - 1-14 to 1-7.
The game looked all over as a confident Armagh were in such control. Incredibly and dramatically, Antrim came back from the dead.
First, a 60m plus free by O'Grady was missed by defenders and the goalkeeper to end up in the roof of Armagh's net.
With Armagh dazed O'Grady added a point. It looked as if Armagh would hold out when awarded a free deep in Antrim territory.
Trying to run down the clock the referee to instead awarded a throw-up and Antrim secured the ball and quickly delivered to midfielder, Owen Gallagher. A long solo followed, passing defenders as he went before Gallagher unleashed a thundering volley to the net. The sides were level at 1-14 to 3-8.
Extra-time was needed and Armagh hit six points without reply. Those points from Ethan Rafferty, Jemar Hall, Eddie English (2), Ciaran O'Hanlon and Paul McGeown certainly had Armagh looking likely and convincing winners.
Antrim went for broke and again demonstrated a tenacious fighting spirit. This period it was the Saffrons who held total control and hit six without reply via Murray (4), O'Grady and McCann to incredibly secure a remarkable draw.
The replay takes place on Wednesday (March 26) at 7pm in Pairc Esler Newry, as the winners are due to meet Donegal in the semi-final on Wednesday, April 2.
On the night, Armagh played brilliantly at times but well below par at other times as Antrim proved to be a more difficult opponent than first thought. Armagh's best players on the night were Ethan Rafferty, Paul McGeown and Miceal McKenna with subs Callum Comiskey and Jemar Hall having a telling influence on the game.
Overall, manager Steven McDonnell and his assistant, Billy Joe Padden will feel satisfied with the performance and can be confident of winning the replay.
Armagh: N McCoy, M Finnegan, S Kelly, S Freeman, D O'Neill, D O'Hagan, P Crilly, A Findon, E Rafferty (1-2, pen, 0-1 45), P McGeown (0-6, 0-2 frees), M McKenna (0-2), C Comiskey (0-2 frees), A Nugent, C O'Hanlon (0-2) and C McNally. Subs: C Boyle for Freeman (black card) 11, E English (0-4) for McNally 28, J McElroy for Finnegan 42, J Hall (0-2) for Nugent 48 and E Burns for O'Neill 66.
Antrim: R Hanna, C O'Rawe, N Delargy, C McCann, M McGarry, C Hamill, E Killough, O Gallagher (1-0), D Nugent, R Murray (0-6), K Quinn (0-1), D McAleese, P McBride (0-1), R McGrady (2-4, 1-0 pen, 0-2 frees) and L McCurdy. Subs: D McCann for C McCann 20, F O'Neill for McGarry 38, R McCann (0-2) for McCurdy 42, R Lynch for Nugent 45, M Lappin for Hamill 48 and P Nugent for Quinn 53.

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