Armagh’s hunger for Ulster title sinks Down

Orchard County summons top-class performance to leave technically inferior Down in their slipstream

Armagh (4-10) Down (0-12)

Seldom has Armagh’s hunger to collect a first Ulster Senior Football Championship title since 2008 surfaced to quite the same extent as it did in Sunday’s captivating provincial semi-final at St Tiernach’s Park, Clones.

The Orchard County summoned a top-class performance to leave a gallant but technically inferior side in their slipstream.

Goals in the 22nd minute from Andrew Murnin and in the 27th minute from Shane McPartlan served to underpin Armagh’s 2-4 to 0-6 interval lead with Pat Havern (three), Ryan Johnston and Liam Kerr landing the points which kept Down in touch.


But when Ciaran Mackin in the 47th minute and Rian O’Neill in the 55th minute slammed in another brace of Armagh goals, the curtain had come down on the Mourne side’s provincial championship journey before it really got started.

Down, restricted to occasional raids throughout the game, were unable to prise open the Armagh defence sufficiently that they might benefit more.

Indeed, Down could be said to have been fortunate to avoid an even heavier loss as Armagh missed other goal chances and conceded some unnecessary frees in the closing stages.

Ironically, in a match in which his side played second fiddle throughout, Havern emerged as the top scorer with six points (four frees), his accuracy having served to soften the blow somewhat as Down fell from grace.

Ryan McEvoy contributed a brace of points but Armagh held sway throughout and have already set their sights on an Ulster final engagement with Derry

Armagh selector Ciaran McKeever had reason to be upbeat at the finish but tempered his joy having taken cognisance of Derry’s comfortable victory over Monaghan in the other semi-final on Saturday.

“Obviously we are delighted to be in the Ulster final at last. We have not been there for a number of years but this group of players have worked very hard to get us this far,” McKeever said.

“We are not getting too carried away by the final score because we created loads of opportunities throughout the league and we did not take them.”

Down boss Conor Laverty was clearly disappointed with his side’s performance but acknowledged that Armagh’s tenure had stood them in good stead.

“I thought that the boys battled well but there is no doubt that Armagh’s overall experience helped to carry them through,” Laverty said.

“Even when we did manage to get a bit of cohesion going Armagh were still able to hit us with too many sucker punches and we paid the penalty.”

Armagh: E Rafferty, C O’Neill (0-1), A McKay, A Forker (0-1), Ciaran Mackin (1-0), G McCabe, J Og Burns, B Crealey, S McPartlan (1-0), J Duffy (0-2), J Hall (0-1), R O’Neill (1-0), R Grugan (0-1, 1F), A Murnin (1-1), C Turbitt.

Subs: Connaire Mackin for Crealey, S Campbell (0-1) for McPartlan, R McQuillan for Hall, A Nugent (0-1) for Turbitt, Ó Conaty for Murnin, C Cumiskey (0-1) for Ciaran Mackin

Down: N Kane, P Laverty, S Annett, M Rooney, D Magill, N McParland, M Rooney, D Guinness, C Poland, R McEvoy (0-2, 2F), C Doherty, R Johnston (0-1), L Kerr (0-1), P Brannigan (0-1), P Havern (0-6, 5F), E Branagan.

Subs: S Johnston for Annett, A Gilmore (0-1) for E Branagan, D McAleenan for Doherty, R Carr for P Branagan, C McCrickard for Poland

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)