Bank of Ireland Dr. Mc Kenna Cup (round two)
Antrim 1-10 Armagh 2-21
Geordie McGuckin reports from Chapel Hill, Glenavy
Armagh strolled to an easy win over an experimental Antrim side in today’s Dr McKenna Cup round two clash at Chapel Hill Glenavy in a game that was well and truly over as a contest at the half way mark. At that stage the visitors led by 2-12 to 0-2 and while the home side outscored their opponents in a much improved second half they never really looked like troubling a very good Armagh side who had taken their foot off the pedal with the hard work done.
After a promising start which saw the home side first to register but their optimism was to be short lived as the visitors took control, and when their red hot forward line found their feet there was just no stopping them.
The Antrim kick-out strategy was causing them problems and when the visitors were gifted two early goals, the first from Ryan McShane, who lobbed the stranded Antrim goalkeeper Colm Fleming for the first and when Jamie Clarke added a second a few minutes later from the penalty spot the writing was on the wall as the visitors surged 2-4 to 0-1 clear.
The visitors now in the ‘comfort zone’ took complete control as the home side visibly struggled and when the short blast arrived Armagh had matters well in hand as they led 2-12 to 0-02.
Antrim did improve in the second half with the excellent Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Mc Bride, and centre back Declan Lynch leading by example but they were being kept at arm’s length by the visitors and by the end Armagh crossed the winning line comfortable winners.
A Patrick McBride point saw the home side take an early lead but Armagh, who had started out with a huge win over the students of St Mary’s in round one, were soon in control as Stephen Sheridan and the impressive Jarlath Og Burns took control in at midfield, and Stefan Campbell pulling the strings in attack they had moved 0-04 to 0-01 ahead by the 11th minute.
Back to back Ryan McShane points saw them in front and after a further white flag was raised by Rory Grugan, Aiden Forker left several Antrim defenders trailing in his wake as he strode forward from deep inside his own half to dispatch between the posts.
Antrim were certainly contributing to their own problems with a series of poor kick outs and when Ryan McShane took advantage with the opening goal in the 13th minute, and Jamie Clarke followed from the penalty spot following a foul inside the area on Rory Grugan, they had moved nine points ahead, 2-04 to 0-01.
Despite the best efforts of Ricky Johnston and Declan Lynch in the Antrim defence, Armagh continued to press and score at will with Stefan Campbell leading the way. Jemar Hall found space to split the posts in the 16th minute and after the ever willing Aidan Forker made his way forward to split the posts again Stefan Campbell’s in the 19th and 21st minute made it 2-08 to 0-01.
A Patrick Mc Bride 29th minute point ended a 27 minute scoreless spell for the Saffrons, but it was to prove brief respite for the home side as Kieran McGeeney’s men were quick to regain the initiative and late points by Jack Grugan, Stefan Campbell (2), and wing half back Mark Shields to go in at the break 2-12 to 02 to the good.
Paddy Nugent took over in goals from Colm Fleming at the start of the second half and a Saffron defence that had struggled for most of the opening period began to fare somewhat better.
It was Armagh who started the second half scoring however when corner back Connaire Mackin went forward to split the posts but the home side found a quick reply through Colum Duffin before replacement Niall Delargy signalled his arrival with a 42nd minute point.
Delargy did well to make the score after the hard grafting Matthew Fitzpatrick had opened the way.
The St John’s centre-forward was doing his utmost in the Saffron cause and was central to the next score as his efforts opened the way for his club mate Patrick Mc Bride to add a 47th minute point.
The visitors were soon back in charge again and when Rory Grugan sent a 40 metre free between the posts and Stefan Campbell and replacements Niall Grimley, and Aidan Nugent raised white flags apiece the Orchard men had moved into a 2-18 to 0-05 clear.
At this stage it was all about salvaging some pride and to their credit they kept up the fight against the odds as they finished with a flourish as Niall Delargy added a second point and Kevin Quinn and Patrick Mc Bride (3) followed suit in answer to a brace from man of the match Stefan Campbell.
Antrim battled to the end though chasing a lost cause with Eoghan McCabe grabbing an injury time goal to finish off good approach work by Mark Sweeney and the splendid Matthew Fitzpatrick.
With only St. Mary’s to play in the McKenna Cup prior to their league opening against Derry in two weeks Lenny Harbison and his backroom staff have a job on hand to get their side ready.
Derry defeated Fermanagh today in the McKenna Cup and have already been installed as favourites to win division 4 before a ball is kicked in anger and today’s win will certainly lift their confidence further.
The Antrim management team will take some encouragement from their side’s second half performance and will hope to build on that before facing the Oak Leaf County at Corrigan.
Antrim: Colm Fleming, Patrick Brannigan, Ricky Johnston, Andrew Sweeney, Patrick Finnegan, Declan Lynch, Patrick Gallagher, Mark Sweeney, Eunan Walsh, Michael Mc Carry, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Colum Duffin, Kevin Quinn, Eoghan Mc Cabe (1-00), Patrick Mc Bride (0-06)
Connell Lemon for Paddy Brannigan (inj)
Padraig Nugent for C Fleming
Niall Delargy (0-02) for P Finnegan
Fintan Burke for E Walsh
Armagh: Blaine Hughes, Connaire Macken (0-01), Ryan Kennedy, James Morgan, Mark Shields (0-01), Brendan Donaghy, Aiden Forker (0-02), Stephen Sheridan, Jarlath og Burns, Ryan Mc Shane (1-03), Rory Grugan (0-03), Jemar Hall (0-01), Stephan Campbell (0-08), Jack Grugan (0-02), Jamie Clarke (1-00)
Aiden Nugent (0-01) for J Clarke
Pearse Casey for J Grugan
Joe Mc Elroy for M Shields
Niall Grimley (0-01) for S Sheridan
Charlie Vernon for R Kennedy
Referee S Hurson (Tir Eoghan)