Armagh Harps 0-11 Granemore 2-6
With 15 minutes left, it seemed that Armagh Harps had all the hard work done and it was now just a matter of seeing the game out.
But how wrong they were, and a Ryan Rafferty inspired Granemore refused to throw in the towel and fought to the very end.
A dominant first half display allowed the home side to steel away into a 0-7 to 0-2 lead as Granemore failed to get into the game.
A superb ‘Dingle’ Daly save denied Granemore a goal from the penalty spot as the Harps remained in control.
Tom O’Kane was his usual accurate self while the O’Neill brothers, Jason and Eoghan, recorded one score each to complete Granemore’s first half tally.
Things continued to look good for the hosts as Ryan McShane and O’Kane stretched the lead to seven early in the second period.
Jason O’Neill helped Granemore turn the tide with his precision from dead balls, hitting four frees after the interval.
Ryan Rafferty saw his goal-bound effort swayed past the post by the Harps net-minder as Granemore continue to claw their way back into the game.
The super sub would eventually get another chance as he chased in along the end line before placing the ball into the back of the net.
A high ball towards the square from Eoghan O’Neill was punched home by his older brother Jason to fire Granemore in front for the first time with the finish line now in sight.
The Harps did claim a late point, but it wasn’t enough to grab something from the game and Granemore gained maximum points with a smash and grab victory on the opening day of the season.
Ballymacnab 0-9 Dromintee 2-6
The Round Towers suffered a real sucker punch at the very death when Conor Martin cracked home a goal to capture two points for the away side.
The Nab battled back from three points down to level the tie and looked to have wrestled a share of the spoils from Dromintee, but the substitute Martin had other ideas.
Rory Grugan opened the scoring within the first five minutes before Gavin McParland burst through the visitors defence to secure a two-point lead for his side.
Ryan Gaskin got the away side off the mark while Shane McCoy deserted his goalkeeping duties to smash over a 45 and level the game.
The weather denied any chance of free-flowing football and the low scoring first half saw the sides remain level at the interval.
Paul Meegan and Oisin McGivern (free) saw their points matched by the opposition to leave the score 0-4 to 0-4 after 30 minutes.
Ballymacnab playmaker Grugan once again opened the scoring in the second period before Dromintee replied through Niall Courtney.
The visitors made the first burst for the finish line as Aidan Morgan raised the first green flag of the evening and left three points between the sides, the biggest margin in the game.
Jack Grugan traded scores Cathal McKenna as the Grugan brothers, assisted by substitute Michael Beagen, began to reel Dromintee back in.
Rory Grugan struck two frees while full-forward Jack also pointed from a mark to level the game with time almost up.
Dromintee would have one last say though. A turnover in the centre of the field saw possession make its way to Conor Martin who buried the ball into the bottom corner with the last action of the game.
While neither side were at full strength, goals were always going to be massive scores and the timing of Dromintee’s last three-pointer was the ultimate decider.
Madden 1-10 St Patrick’s 3-5
Aidan Nugent was the star of the show as Cullyhanna got their league campaign off to a winning start against Madden.
The Armagh star finished with a personal tally of 2-5 as St Patrick’s limped to victory after a powerful first half showing.
Nugent only needed twenty seconds to open the scoring as he rattled the net to set the visitors on their way.
Ciaran Rafferty and Niall Grimley raised one white flag each for the hosts before Nugent found the target once more to grab his first point.
Cullyhanna claimed the games second goal, and it was Aodhan Conlon this time who slotted the ball past the Raparees keeper.
Aron McKenna and Joe Sheridan both go off the mark to close the gap, but Nugent continued to torment the Madden defence.
A pointed free followed Nugent’s second goal of the contest and left Cullyhanna well in control by the half time whistle, 3-2 to 0-4.
Madden made a strong comeback in the second period and pushed the leaders right to the final whistle.
St Pat’s only registered three points in the final 40 minutes of the game, as Madden began to get on top.
Niall Smith kicked off the second period with a goal to close the margin while Niall Grimley swung over a score to get his side back in touch.
Nugent looked to settle his men with two pointed frees, equally matched by Madden’s reliable free-taker Grimley.
Smith burst forward once again to split the posts but Nugent was once again on target to keep St Pat’s ahead.
Niall Grimley knocked over two late frees but it wasn’t enough to get Madden back on level terms and Cullyhanna done enough to get their promotion push off to a flying start with a one-point win.
St Peter’s and Silverbridge enjoyed big wins on Friday night, the Lurgan men seeing off Annaghmore 1-13 to 0-4 while Silverbridge defeated Mullaghbawn 0-16 to 0-8.
Elsewhere Grange secured an opening day win against Clann Eireann, 1-15 to 1-10 to gain their first points of the season.
Sarsfields 0-15 Clan na Gael 2-10
From the outset, this was always going to be a tight, closely contested encounter as local derbies usually prove to be.
Sarsfields hoped to make home advantage count as they looked to lay down an early marker, but goals win games and Clan na Gael found the net on two occasions to claim the victory.
It was a sloppy game, riddled with mistakes, as one could expect with the weather, but Clans did enough to get over the line.
Shane McPartlan and Caolan Campbell were the match-winners, as they recorded the games two goals.
McPartlan hit the opener while two impressive Thomas McAlinden points saw the Clans just ahead 1-3 to 0-3.
The home side steadied the ship before the interval and outscored the opposition 6-1 to head into the half time break one point ahead, 0-9 to 1-4.
The High Moss men continued to take the advantage and three unanswered points saw them steal away into a four-point lead ten minutes into the second period.
Caolan Campbell then got Clan na Gael back into contention and the town men began to make better use of the ball, while their defensive formation was proving hard to break down.
Shane McPartlan added a few nice points towards the end of the tie to see the Clans take an opening day win, just ahead by the minimum of margins when the final whistle sounded.
An Port Mor 1-13 Collegeland 1-12
Deemed as ‘El Classico’, this game didn’t disappoint as both sides delivered a thrilling encounter in An Port Mor on Friday evening.
The early exchanges were timid by traditional derby game standards, and the visitors led 3-1 after eighteen minutes.
It seemed to take the water break to stir the home side and a series of frees meant the game was level after twenty-four minutes, 0-4 each.
The sides continued to match each other until half time, and it took a late Shane Nugent point to edge An Port Mor into the interval with a one-point advantage, 0-7 to 0-6.
The second half started well for the home team with Nugent kicking his fifth point (three frees), while two Collegeland points drew the teams level, but on 39 minutes the game was to take a dramatic change.
Full forward Gary Traynor received a quick free kick and laid the ball off to the energetic Dara McKenna, who left the keeper helpless and finished to the top of the net.
Substitute Ryan Gorman kicked a point but Collegeland hit a purple patch of their own and stroked over a well taken point, followed by another couple of untaken chances.
On 45 minutes the visitors were awarded a penalty, but the Collegeland forward could only drag the ball wide.
The teams continued to trade scores and with injury time approaching and An Port Mór held on to their four point advantage.
Collegeland refused to give up and a late Brian McGeary goal made it a very nervous finish for the home team but the blackwatertown men held on for a one point for a win.
Clonmore 1-8 Ballyhegan 0-9
Clonmore settled into live in the Intermediate Division with an early win on Friday evening as they welcomed Ballyhegan.
The match began with a shaky start for both teams and after 12 minutes the score stood level at two points each.
That was until Cathal McCann scored the game’s only three-pointer, from a rebounded effort, after the Ballyhegan keeper had initially saved the shot at goal, to put Clonmore three points ahead.
A sin-bin on the Ballyhegan team shortly before half time meant that Clonmore began the second half with an extra man.
The visiting side began the second half with a point but Clonmore quickly replied with one of their own in return.
The substitution of Raymond McBennett proved to be vital as he scored two key points for the eventual winners in the second half.
The Davitts looked dangerous right until the very end of the game with several late attacks, but the Clonmore defence stood firm the backline proved difficult to penetrate.
Brendan Donaghy topped scored on the night for the victors with three points (one free) while Cathal McCann nabbed the games only goal.
Cathal Cunningham and Ryan O’Hagan (free) raised two white flags each, as did sub Raymond McBennett.
Keady and Middletown faced off in the other Division 2B game on Friday and it was the Michael Dwyers club who picked up the victory, 0-11 to 0-6.
Derrynoose 4-15 Killeavy II 3-5
Derrynoose earned a comfortable win on Friday evening as they host Killeavy IIs.
The visitors got off to the best possible start, hitting 1-1 in the early minutes but Derrynoose should got back on terms.
Davy McCreesh and Conor McNally points left the sides level before Patrick Quinn hit the opening goal to give Derrynoose a lead they would maintain for the rest of the contest.
Conor McNally added to his growing tally with a goal of his own followed by three well-taken scores while a point was Killeavy’s only response.
This saw the hosts well ahead by the time the midway mark arrived, claiming a 2-7 to 1-2 half time lead.
McNally saw another effort soar over the black spot while Cormac Fox smashed the ball past the Killeavy keeper for his sides third major.
Three more Davy McCreesh points where accompanied by scores from McNally and a 45 from goalkeeper Stephen McArdle.
Killeavy did find some good for midway through the second period and rattled off 2-2 in quick succession to close the gap.
There was to be no fairy tale comeback however as Bill McAtavey netted for his sides fourth while McCreesh and Dillon Fox added points to see out a comfy win.
Forkhill overcame Crossmaglen IIs with a 1-15 to 1-9 win while Dorsey had enough to see off Lissummon, winning 3-8 to 0-11.
Belleek also opened their account with a win on the first day, beating Newtown 4-9 to 2-9 as Corrinshego also picked up early points defeating Mullabrack 1-10 to 0-9.