Orchard goals sink the Saffrons

Ulster Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final 

Armagh 4-15-0-14 Antrim 

Kevin Herron reports from the Athletic Grounds 

Antrim’s Championship summer came to an end at the Athletic Grounds this afternoon as three second half goals saw Armagh advance to the Ulster semi-final.

Enda McGinley’s charges had battled superbly in the opening half and trailed to Rory Grugan’s 11th minute strike and were well in proceedings until Rian O’Neill converted a penalty to open up a two-goal cushion for the hosts.

Two further goals in the final quarter from substitutes Conor Turbitt and Tiernan Kelly sealed a comprehensive win for Kieran McGeeney’s side who advance to face Monaghan in the last four.

There was one change made to the Armagh side pre-match as Jarlath Og Burns came in to replace Tiernan Kelly, while Antrim were unchanged to the side named during the week. 

Armagh drew first blood at the Athletic Grounds as Rian O’Neill converted an early free.

Enda McGinley’s side began patiently and moved the ball around well before having the chance to level when Ryan Murray had his shirt pulled. The Làmh Dhearg forward converted himself to restore parity.

O’Neill and Murray traded further frees before the opening goal arrived on 11 minutes.

The ball was broken down to Stefan Campbell in midfield and Campbell steered a high ball into the path of Rory Grugan who picked his spot low past Luke Mulholland to make it 1-02-0-02.

Armagh extended their lead with a nice Ciaron O’Hanlon point but Antrim hit back with three successive points.

Conor Murray drew a foul and Odhran Eastwood converted, Eoghan McCabe then linked with Niall McKeever for a fine point and Patrick McBride steered the ball over from Eastwood’s pass to make it a one-point game.

Connaire Mackin would edge his side two-ahead before the water break- but Dermot McAleese burst forward and confidently pointed upon the resumption.

Armagh hit the next score courtesy of Oisin O’Neill and should have scored a second goal shortly after- but Grugan snatched at the opportunity and his effort was wide of the post.

Further wides were squandered through Grugan and Greg McCabe before Antrim had a goal chance of their own.

Mick McCann puts the brakes on an Armagh attack during the opening half.

Mick McCann turned over Jemar Hall in midfield and passed it to Ryan Murray, Murray found the run of Odhran Eastwood whose offload found Ruairi McCann and the Creggan forwards low drive was turned away by the foot of Armagh keeper Blaine Hughes.

After ten scoreless minutes Armagh opened up a three-point lead thanks to Rian O’Neill who converted his third free of the half.

Patrick McBride split the posts from a tight angle at the other end as Armagh led 1-06-0-07 at the break. 

The hosts opened the second half with a brace of points from Rory Grugan and Greg Burns with Conor Murray replying at the other end.

Jarlath Og Burns fisted over and Ryan Murray replied before Rian O’Neill drew a free- which he himself converted to bring his tally to 0-04 for the afternoon.

The Orchard men would take a firm grip of the encounter in the aftermath as Luke Mulholland’s kick out caused confusion and allowed Rory Grugan in, Mulholland tripped Grugan and a penalty was awarded by referee Séan Hurson.

Rian O’Neill seized responsibility and despite Mulholland correctly guessing -the power of O’Neill’s low drive took it to the corner of the net and Armagh were 2-10-0-09 in front.

Ruairi McCann responded with a free, but Armagh substitute Conor Turbitt swung one over at the other end.

Dermot McAleese kicked his second of the afternoon before the water break- however Armagh put the game to bed upon the game’s resumption.

Conor Turbitt cut inside and showed his strength to steer home his sides third and give them a three-goal cushion (3-11-0-11).

Odhran Eastwood loses his footing as he cuts between two Armagh defenders

Points followed from Rory Grugan and O’Neill (free) with Conor Small and Conor Murray (free) retorting.

Jarlath Og Burns found his second of the afternoon with Ruairi McCann hitting back with a free.

Though the hosts finished strong with Paddy Burns collecting a cross field pass and converting the resulting mark and Tiernan Kelly finishing Antrim off with a late goal to seal a 4-15-0-14 victory and an Ulster semi-final clash with Monaghan in a few weeks’ time.

For Antrim their Championship summer may be over but they met their ultimate objective of promotion this season and will look forward to Division 3 football next year and will be hopeful of a normal Championship season.

Armagh: B Hughes, J Morgan, C Mackin (0-01), R Finn, G McCabe (0-01), C O’Hanlon (0-01), A McKay, N Grimley, O O’Neill (0-01), J Hall, R O’Neill (1-05, 1-00p, 0-05f), J Og Burns (0-02), R Grugan (1-02), A Murnin, S Campbell. Subs: C Turbitt (1-01) for A Murnin (HT), T Kelly (1-00) for S Campbell (46), C O’Neill for N Grimley (49), P Burns (0-01 mark) for A McKay (59), B Donaghy for G McCabe (63).

Antrim: L Mulholland, E McCabe, R Johnston, P Healy, M Jordan, J Laverty, D McAleese (0-02), C Stewart, N McKeever (0-01), R Murray (0-03, 0-02f), M McCann, P McBride (0-02), O Eastwood (0-01f), R McCann (0-02f), C Murray (0-02, 0-01f). Subs: T McCann for R Murray (45), M Sweeney for C Stewart (55), C Small (0-01) for P McBride (55), K Small for O Eastwood (60), E Walsh for M Jordan (70).

Referee: Séan Hurson (Tir Eoghain)

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