Armagh Senior Championship Semi Final Match Reports

Ballymacnab 0-16 Granemore 0-13

When the dust settles, Granemore will look back on this game as the one that got away. If one more minute was to be played in normal time, The St Mary’s side could now be preparing for their first even Senior Championship Final, such was the strength of their come back in the final ten minutes of the game.

Trailing by five points with just over 10 minutes remaining, Granemore rallied and got back on level terms to drag the contest into extra time. But Ballymacnab showed all their experience and quality in the addition time to outscore their opponents 5-2, and now find themselves in their second Senior Final in as many years.

Conditions were horrible and didn’t allow for any free flowing football, but if anything the weather made the game more intriguing and the slow surface permitted a more physical encounter. The ball slipped and skidded along the turf all evening but both sides displayed some fantastic fielding while the exchanges around centre of the park for the breaking ball were exhilarating.

Ballymacnab’s forward trio of the Grugan brothers Jack and Rory along with Gavin McParland caused the Granemore defence endless trouble at the beginning of the game and McParland opened the scoring inside the opening three minutes. Granemore replied instantly and soon found themselves ahead with Jason O’Neill and Pete Carr both hitting the target.

The game continued in its nip and tuck style, Ballymacnab were playing the better football but Granemore were more efficient in front of the posts. Rory Grugan got his side back on level terms while Oisin McGivern fired over to give the Nab a slender one point advantage after 11 minutes.

Granemore responded once again with Liam Doyle expertly slotting over a 45, his accuracy from placed balls a sight to behold on a night not suited for off the ground free kicks. Jack Grugan opened his account to hand his team the lead but Doyle split the posts for the second time from another dead ball effort.

The Round Towers then took control of the contest and reeled off the next four scores before the interval. Jack Grugan escaped the tight attention of his marker to kick an audacious score, stealing in along the end line and finding space to kick on the run and put his side back in front once more.   

Grugan knocked over two frees before Man of the Match Ciaran Connelly raced forward from his defensive duties to kick over the final score of the first half with Ballymacnab now well in control, leading by double scores. The score board reading Ballymacnab 0-8 Granemore 0-4.

Jason O’Neill reduced the deficit early in the second period with a point from the dead ball before Brian McCone did likewise for the Nab. The sides traded scores once more with Liam Doyle’s free cancelled out with a Jack Grugan placed ball effort. Cormac Gribben handed his side with the biggest lead of the evening with the Nab now comfortably ahead by five with just over ten minutes remaining.

Granemore refused to be beaten and Kieran Toner began the comeback with his first score before Doyle’s point from play cut the margin to three. The O’Neill brothers combined to kick a point each with one point now separating the teams with addition time almost up. A heroic fetch at midfield from Brendan Boylan drew a free and Doyle oozed confidence to once again split the posts to level the game 0-11 each, with extra time called upon to determine the winner.

The St Mary’s side had fought back from the brink and heading into the two addition periods of extra time seemed to carry all the momentum from the closing exchanges of normal time. That’s not how it panned out however and Granemore seemed to tire as Ballymacnab began their push for home.

It started with Pauric Gribben stroking over a point three minutes into the first half of extra time before Jason O’Neill pointed to level the sides once again. The Nab substitutes made a telling impact with both Chris Loughran and Niall McKee getting on the score sheet while Jack Grugan also pointed to see Ballymacnab ahead by three, 0-15 to 0-12 at the break.

The second half was clearly do or die and Cormac Gribben opened the scoring while Liam Doyle responded with a 45. Granemore poured on the pressure in search of a goal which never came and two unbelievable saves, (one in normal time and one in extra time) from Conor McGivern saw the Nab keep their lead and ensure their entrance into the showpiece which will take place on Sunday 20th of October!

Ballymacnab Scorers: Jack Grugan (0-6), Cormac Gribben (0-2), Gavin McParland (0-1), Rory Grugan (0-1), Oisin McGivern (0-1), Ciaran Connelly (0-1), Brian McCone (0-1), Pauric Gribben (0-1), Chris Loughran (0-1), Niall McKee (0-1).

Granemore Scorers: Liam Doyle (0-6), Jason O’Neill (0-4), Pete Carr (0-1), Kieran Toner (0-1), Eoin O’Neill (0-1).

Crossmaglen 2-9 Maghery 0-8

While many predicted this would be the game of the weekend, it couldn’t be further from the truth and Maghery will be disappointed by their tame effort to halt Crossmaglen’s bid for two in a row as the men in black and amber marched towards the final with the minimum of fuss. The game certainly didn’t achieve the surrounding pre-match hype and the League Champions crashed out at the semi final stage for the second time in as many years.

Maghery faced an uphill battle as early as the opening minute when Mel Boyce’s hit and hope pass to the square fell perfectly at the feet of Oisin O’Neill who directed the ball past the Maghery net minder to give Cross an opening three point lead. Three became four soon after when Cian McConville chipped over a point and extended Cross’ early dominance.

Rian O’Neill knocked over a free on the 8th minute and Cross, incredibly, failed to score in the next 20 minutes after making such a positive start. Maghery’s failure in this time was they were only able to hit one score when Stefan Forker tapped over a free straight in front of the goal to open their account on the 19th minute. Two pointed frees from Rian O’Neill and Cian McConville saw an end to a dull first half, with Crossmaglen deservingly in front 1-4 to 0-1.

The second half was slightly more entertaining but with the result beyond doubt all Maghery could do was fight for pride and put some respectability on the scoreboard. But like the first half Cross rallied off three unanswered scores before Maghery got off the mark. Rian O’Neill, McConville and Callum Cumiskey all kicked scores, with Cross now nine up.

Aidan Forker got Maghery’s first of the second half before a super save from Johnny Montgomery denied Alan Farrelly a goal chance but the ball deflected over the bar and a point was all Cross needed at this stage. Forker swung over another free before Stefan Forker got Maghery’s first from play following a monster catch from James Lavery at centre field.

Aidan Forker struck from the dead ball once again to put a dent in Cross’ lead but Colin O’Connor soon restored the Rangers seven point advantage. Niall Forker and Gerard Campbell gave Maghery some optimism as the margin was now down to five but they needed a goal to worry Cross in the slightest.

And there was a green flag raised in the next move, but unfortunately for Maghery the ball ended up in their goal as Cian McConville made a great interception in the centre of the field before the ball found its way to Rian O’Neill who played in his brother Oisin for his second goal of the contest and the game was dead and buried.

Aidan Forker got the final score of the game with Crossmaglen winning 2-9 to 0-8. Maghery’s final pass let them down all evening and Cross were sublime on the counter attack, 2-8 of their 2-9 total coming on the back of turnovers and they now find themselves matched against Ballymacnab in a repeat of last year’s final in two weeks time.

Crossmaglen Scorers: Oisin O’Neill (2-1), Cian McConville (0-3), Rian O’Neill (0-2), Callum Cumiskey (0-1), Alan Farrelly (0-1), Colin O’Connor (0-1).

Maghery Scorers: Aidan Forker (0-4), Stefan Forker (0-2), Niall Forker (0-1), Gerard Campbell (0-1).