Double for Del as Saffs open with a win

Above – Alex Delargy scores the second of his two first half goals in Tuesday evening’s McGurk Cup win over Armagh

Conor McGurk Cup – Section A

Antrim 3-19 Armagh 1-14

Tuesday December 3

Brendan McTaggart reports from the Dub, Belfast

Antrim got their McGurk Cup campaign off to a winning start on Tuesday night with a comprehensive win over Armagh in the Dub.  It wasn’t quite the night the Saffrons had in mind though as they had to play for 65 minutes of the match with a man less after the early dismissal of Gerard Walsh but like last Saturday, Antrim were slick all over the field in the opening half.  10 different scorers and a defence rarely looked like conceding a goal, the Orchard County’s major coming midway through the second half and a superb piece of skill from substitute Ruairi Convery.

A brace of first half goals from Alex Delargy along with a man of the match performance from clubmate, Paddy Burke helped Antrim to an 11 point win over a dogged Armagh side.  Dan McCloskey, Eoin O’Neill, Phelim Duffin and Domhnall Nugent all shone in the Saffron shirt with Niall McKenna producing another impressive performance when introduced in the second half.

Dommhal Nugent who gave another fine display at full-forward

Showing nine changes from the team that disposed of Meath with ease three days previous, Antrim started well with Conor Johnston firing over his first of five points for the match before Nugent doubled their advantage soon after.  The Saffrons were stopped in their tracks when Walsh was red carded.  They continued with their good start however and led by five points before Nathan Curry opened Armagh’s account in the eighth minute. 

Antrim held a three point lead when Delargy scored his first goal of the evening.  A long puck out from Conor McAllister was gathered by Nugent and he laid the sliotar into the path of Del who made no mistake after 11 minutes.

Further scores from Conor Johnston, O’Neill, James McNaughton and James O’Connell took the Antrim lead to double figures with five minutes of the half remaining and while Dean Gaffney (free) and Danny Magee responded for Armagh, Antrim and Delargy had the final say of the half.

A long ball to the heart of the Armagh defence and Nugent was under the dropping sliotar, instructing Delargy to stay down, the St Johns man flicked the ball into his path and Delargy finished emphatically.  An O’Connell point soon after left the Saffrons leading 2-11 to 0-5 at the interval.

A 12 point lead and another solid performance, this time with 14 men and Antrim controlled the second half – just as they did against Meath.  Armagh rallied after the restart and hit four points unanswered with Donnelly (three) and Magee but while the Saffrons were misfiring after the interval, they never looked like yielding the advantage they earned in the first half.

Further scores from substitutes Niall McKenna and Ryan McCambridge along with Conor Johnston opened a ten point lead before Armagh hit the score of the game.  Devlin intercepting a pass before sending the sliotar high towards Convery on the edge of the square.  The former Derry start doubled one handed overhead and caught the sliotar in perfectly in mid air to send it flying past McAllister to give his side a glimmer of hope for the 17 minutes that remained.

Conor Johnston grabs and Antrim score during the first half

Antrim remained composed however and with McKenna, Michael Bradley and Conor Johnston all adding further scores in response to McGuinness, Convery, Magee and Gaffney, the Saffrons led by eight before they scored their third goal in injury time.  Conor Johnston with an impish move along the end line before sending the sliotar across the goal where Armagh full back Ciaran Clifford deflected the sliotar and wrong-footed Woods between the sticks.

A comfortable victory for Antrim who now turn their thoughts to Saturday and a meeting with Wicklow at Abbotstown as they continue their Kehoe Cup campaign.

James McNaughton solos up the sideline

TEAMS

ANTRIM: C McAllister; P Duffin, Ciaran Johnston, P Burke; R Molloy, TT Butler, G Walsh; D McCloskey (0-1), N McKeague; J McNaughton (0-1), Conor Johnston (1-5, 2 frees), J O’Connell (0-3); A Delargy (2-0), D Nugent (0-1), E O’Neill (0-2). Subs: S Rooney for TT Butler (ht), M Bradley (0-2) for D Nugent (ht), N McKenna (0-3, 1 65) for E O’Neill (49), R McCambridge (0-1) for J O’Connell (52), M Donnelly for N McKeague (60).

ARMAGH: F Woods; P Quinn, C Clifford, G McKeown; B Short, S Renaghan, C Devlin; F Donnelly (0-2, 1 65), P McBride; E McGuinness (0-4), N Curry (0-1), T O’Neill; M McClatchey, D Gaffney (0-3 frees), D Magee (0-3). Subs: K McKernan for B Short (8), R Convery (1-1) for M McClatchey (20), O Keenan for T O’Neill (55), D Grant for D Gaffney (60), O McCann for E McGuinness (68).

REFEREE: Colin Murray (Down)

Antrim manager Darren Gleeson gives his veiws on Tuesday evening’s game

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