Saffrons See Off Armagh in McGurk Cup

Conor McGurk Cup – Quarter Final

Antrim 1-26 Armagh 0-21

Monday 9 January

Brendan McTaggart reports from Dunsilly

Members of the Armagh team stand for a minutes silence in memory of Margaret McKeegan, mother of team manager Karl McKeegan, before Monday evening’s McGurk Cup game at Dunsilly

Antrim recovered from a slow start in this rearranged fixture on Monday evening to see off the challenge of Armagh with eight to spare.

On a bitingly cold evening at Dunsilly, it took Antrim until after the first quarter to find any sort of rhythm against the Orchard County who were depleted themselves in this McGurk Cup quarter-final.

In the end, the Saffrons had enough about them to run out comfortable winners in a game that by it’s very nature had very little flow.  Of Armagh’s 21 points, 14 of them came from the hurl of their free taker Fiontann Donnelly while Antrim had nine different names on the score sheet and just seven of their 1-26 coming from placed ball.

For the 48 minutes he was on the field, Seamie McAuley lit up this game.  He like the rest of the Antrim team had a slow start but McAuley would record 1-4 and showcased his talent.  Eoin O’Neill impressed in the second half while Aaron Bradley looked lively throughout.

In defence, Niall O’Connor was solid at full-back while Enda Og McGarry and captain Gerard Walsh were notable.

The Saffrons had a few Dunloy players in the squad with Conor McKinley playing the second half as he steps up his recovery from a shoulder injury while Kevin and Nicky McKeague made the starting 15.  Anton McGrath and Gabriel McTaggart were introduced at the half time interval with the Cuchullains having one eye on the club final on the 22 January.

Fiontann Donnelly who gave an exhibition of free taking as he scored 14 points for Armagh

After 15 minutes of this game, Karl McKeegan’s Armagh side were four points ahead.  With the match played on Pitch 2 at Dunsilly, Antrim clicked into gear.  By the 22nd minute they took the lead through an Eoin McAlonan point. 

In a high scoring half, the Saffrons led by two points at the short whistle, 0-15 to 0-13.  Darren Gleeson’s side certainly improving as the half progressed.  The Antrim manager made four changes at the interval and while Donnelly got the first score of the half for Armagh, Antrim were playing with a bit more freedom.  Paul Boyle’s introduction giving them something different as he made numerous runs from the middle third into the danger area.

Antrim goalkeeper Tiernan Smyth in action against Armagh

The only goal of the game came in the 46th minute thanks to a piece of brilliance from McAuley.  Eoin O’Neill playing the ball diagonally to the right hand corner towards McAuley.  Collecting the sliotar, he rounded his man and made his way towards the goal where he made no mistake.  A super piece of play to beat his marker and to show the presence of mind to strike unorthodoxly to beat Caolan Rowntree in the Armagh goals.

The major gave Antrim a five point lead and quashed any thoughts of an Orchard victory at Dunsilly with Gleeson ringing more changes throughout the second half.

The Saffrons now play Donegal in the semi-final, scheduled for this Saturday.

Paul Boyle sends over a late point for Antrim

TEAMS

Antrim: Tiernan Smyth; Eoin Trainor, Niall O’Connor, Enda Og McGarry; Gerard Walsh, Kevin McKeague, Damon McMullan; Caolan McKernan, Eoin McAlonan; James McNaughton, Eoin O’Neill, Nicky McKeague; Seamie McAuley, Arron Bradley, Niall McKenna

Subs: Conor McKinley for K McKeague (HT); Gabriel McTaggart for N McKenna (HT); Paul Boyle for C McKernan (HT); Anton McGrath for N McKeague (HT); Ruairi McCormick for E Trainor (48); Niall McGarrell for S McAuley (48); Luke O’Connor for E McAlonan (53); Enda McCartan for J McNaughton (60)

Scorers: S McAuley 1-4; J McNaughton 0-7 (4f 1’65); E O’Neill 0-5 (1f); G Walsh 0-2 (1f); P Boyle 0-2; A Bradley 0-2; N McKeague 0-2; E McAlonan 0-1; A McGrath 0-1

Armagh: Caolan Rowntree; Barry Shortt, Tam McKavanagh, Stephen O’Keefe; Kane Laverty, Tiernan Nevin, Niall Lemon; Conor Renaghan, Peadar McBride; Fiontann Donnelly, Cormac Jennings, Eoin McGuinness; Shea Harvey, Ciaran Duffy, Sean Og McGuinness

Subs: Sean Watters for C Duffy (41); Fintan Woods for P McBride (51)

Scorers: F Donnelly 0-14 (13f); C Duffy 0-2; B Shortt 0-1 (1f); T McKavanagh 0-1; P McBride 0-1; E McGuinness 0-1; S Og McGuinness 0-1

Referee: Aidan McAleer (Donegal)

Sammy was in the wars again on Monday night, but lives to fight another day
The Derry train rolls past in the distance as spectators watch the action on the middle pitch at Dunsilly

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