Clann Eireann 2-8 Granemore 1-10.
The Senior Championship started with a bang on Friday evening as Clann Eireann and Granemore fought out an almighty battle.
The game had everything a neutral could have hoped for when settling down for an evening of action-packed entertainment.
Goals. Disallowed goals. Red cards. Black cards. Heavy hits. Superb scores, and of course the nail-biting finale.
Both sides were reduced to 14 men in the second period, which saw momentum shift back and forth. The result unknown until the final whistle.
Kieran Toner headed for an early shower when an accumulation of fouls saw the towering full forward shown two yellow cards.
Clann Eireann were well on top at this stage, stretching their lead to three points and looking likely to push on.
But as we have come accustomed to, Granemore continued to battle back and a 23rd minute goal left the result up in the air.
Clann Eireann were hit with a double blow. Ryan Henderson followed up his first half black card with another in the second, with the referee forced to show red, minutes after the goal.
The referee had a big say in the game, as his strict style denied Granemore the chance to impose their noteworthy physicality on the opposition.
The Lurgan side were marginally the best team throughout the 60 minutes, but Granemore put up one hell of a challenge.
Clann Eireann had the ball in the net before the clock had reached the first minute mark, when Tiarnan Kelly palmed the ball into an empty net.
The referee deemed a square-ball, but the eventual winners would open the scoring soon after, with a goal, and this one stood.
A beautiful pass cut open the defence and Daniel Magee punched past the on-rushing keeper to give his side an early advantage.
Points from Henderson and Conor Turbitt (free) saw Tommy Coleman’s men sprint into a 1-2 to 0-1 lead, with Louis Hughes opening Granemore’s account.
Jason O’Neill hit two frees while Liam Doyle also displayed his accuracy from the dead ball to close the gap to one by the halfway mark.
Within 45 second of the restart, Jason O’Neill had Granemore back on level terms and they were beginning to find their feet after a shaky start.
Turbitt swung two more scores (one free), with John Magee, who worked tirelessly hard around the centre of the park, earning an assist.
Eoghan O’Neill and Turbitt traded scores before Toner was sent to the line, handing Clann Eireann the ascendancy.
Tiernan Kelly claimed a huge score while Ryan Owens showed great speed to break through the Granemore defence and drive his side three ahead.
With Clann Eireann starting to look comfortable and time running out, Granemore turned all their attention to grabbing a three pointer.
And they soon found the net.
A well worked move saw possession reach Eoghan O’Neill, who rounded the keeper and beat the defensive screen between him and the goal to level the game.
Henderson was given his marching orders while a sweetly struck Liam Doyle free handed Granemore the lead for the first time.
Clann Eireann weren’t finished just yet. Incredible vision from Jack Conlon found the late run of Barry McCambridge, who busted forward from full back to slot the ball past the Granemore keeper.
Suddenly the Lurgan men were back on top and Turbitt eased over another free to give his side some breathing space.
Liam Doyle and Eoghan O’Neill notched on points for Eamon Kavanagh’s side, but they just couldn’t find that levelling score.
Both teams served up a fine game with Clann Eireann just ahead by the time the final whistle sounded to book their place in the quarter finals.
Mullaghbawn 4-13 Annaghmore 0-13
Annaghmore exited the championship at the earliest possible junction on Friday evening with Mullaghbawn proving too strong on the night.
A young, hungry and fit Mullaghbawn put their stamp on the game early on, grabbing control of the contest and keeping themselves ahead throughout.
Shea Loye worked wonders for his side, finishing with 1-3 and earning the assist for the game’s final goal.
Peter McDonnell’s men notched four goals throughout the contest, and ultimately the majors were the difference in deciding the outcome.
The four goals were evenly split by the half time whistle with Mullaghbawn leading by seven at the midway stage.
In fact, their two first half goals came early in the game, and by the water break the eventual winners had built up a 2-4 to 0-3 lead.
Annaghmore will live to regret a host of missed chances that would have seen the margin much closer and perhaps kept them in the running.
Gerard McCann raised the first green flag of the evening, quickly followed by a Kieran Grant goal to give Mullaghbawn the advantage.
Conor Cullen was on target for Annaghmore with two first half points, matched by midfielder Eoin Walsh while Tomas McCormack also got in on the action.
While the goals were the game-changers, Annaghmore were provided with a chance to rattle the net at the other end when they were given a penalty.
A brilliant save from Stephen McKinley, who was in superb form all evening, kept Mullaghbawn’s tails up and helped them lead 2-6 to 0-5 at the half time break.
Annaghmore did shorten the gap just after the interval with two points from Walsh and Cullen before Shea Loye raised a white flag at the other end.
Matthew McNiece got forward for a point in the 5th minute of the second period before Mullaghbawn began to steady the ship and take control.
Four points in a row left it very difficult for Declan Fox’s team to get back in the game but to their credit, they refused to raise the white flag.
Cullen claimed two more pointed frees before his side were hit with another crucial blow, Eoghan McDonnell hitting the net for Mullaghbawn’s third goal.
Cullen continued to keep the scoreboard ticking, as did Tomas McCormack as they continued to close the gap, the deficit at nine points.
With five minutes left on the clock, Mullaghbawn struck the final goal of the evening and it was captain Kieran Grant who got the shot away, with hard work coming from Shea Loye.
The sides traded scores through Matthew McNiece and Pauric Mackin as Mullaghbawn ran out comfortable 12-point winners in the end.
Mullaghbawn now await the result of the Crossmaglen vs Silverbridge game to see who their opponents are for the quarter finals.
Whoever they meet, they are sure to go in underdogs, but McDonnell’s men will not be short of confidence for the remainder of their championship run.