Armagh dig deep to down Derry

Armagh 0-17 Derry 0-15

Armagh have reached the semi-final of the Ulster Championship for the second time in as many years with a two-point win over Derry.

The Orchard County were much the better side in the opening period and built up an important six-point lead.

Derry had the wind advantage for that second 35 minutes and used it to claw their way back into the game, ensuring a nail-biting final few minutes for Armagh fans.

It was all up in the air for that second half, but Armagh had enough quality to dig deep and survive the Derry rally to get over the line.

The home side did get back to within one with only minutes left, but Rian O’Neill slotted over a free to give Armagh some breathing space.

Rory Grugan dictated the terms of the opening period and it was the Ballymacnab man who opened the scoring after two minutes.

Jamie Clarke curled over a lovely score which split two Derry points from Chrissy McKaigue and a Shane McGuigan free.

Armagh took over for the remainder of the first quarter. Jarlath Og Burns, a late addition to the starting line-up, hit an excellent score to go ahead.

Rory Grugan hit a fantastic score with his right foot while Clarke and Grugan (free) extended the lead to four.

Niall Loughlin looked to halt the momentum after the water break, but Armagh weren’t for slowing down.

The O’Neill’s, Rian (free), Conor and Oisin all hit the target to keep their side ticking over, with the margin now six.

Niall Loughlin chipped in with his second free, while Emmett Bradley also got in on the scoring act for the Oak Leaf County.

Armagh cancelled out Derry’s points, with Aidan Forker and a huge Oisin O’Neill score proving the final action of the half, Armagh ahead 0-11 to 0-5.

With the wind now at the backs, Derry began to get themselves back into contention with two points through McGuigan (free) and Ethan Doherty.

Jamie Clarke performed a classy flick up and fired over another score before McGuigan hit one from the dead ball.

Mark Shields blasted over a half goal chance while Ciaran McFaul and McGuigan (free) closed the gap to three.

With Derry continuing to edge closer, Armagh were dealt a cruel blow when Jamie Clarke was sent to the line for a black card defence.

Rory Gallagher’s men couldn’t use the extra man to their advantage however, just hitting one point in the ten minutes through Loughlin.

Rian O’Neill exchanged pointed frees with Loughlin and McGuigan before a super Aidan Forker score seemed to secure the victory.

Derry did keep Armagh on their toes with another two free from McGuigan, but O’Neill’s final involvement confirmed Armagh’s triumph.

It’s a big two weeks now as Kieran McGeeney’s men take on Donegal in the semi-final, and while Armagh will be underdogs, it’s a great game to look forward to.

Armagh: Blaine Hughes, Paddy Burns, Ryan Kennedy, James Morgan, Conor O’Neill (0-1), Aidan Forker (0-2), Mark Shields (0-1), Oisin O’Neill (0-2), Stephen Sheridan, Rory Grugan (0-3 1f), Greg McCabe, Stefan Campbell, Jamie Clarke (0-3), Rian O’Neill (0-4 4f), Jarly Og Burns (0-1). Subs: Niall Grimley for G. McCabe, Callum Cumiskey for S. Sheridan.

Derry: Odhran Lynch, Paul McNeill, Brendan Rodgers, Carlus McWilliams, Ethan Doherty (0-1), Chrissy McKaigue (0-1), Padraig McGrogan, Ciaran McFaul (0-1), Conor Glass, Danny Tallon, Enda Lynn, Padraig Cassidy, Emmett Bradley (0-1), Shane McGuigan (0-7 7f), Niall Loughlin (0-4 3f). Subs: Patrick Kearney for D. Tallon, Oisin McWilliams for P. McNeill, Paul Cassidy for E. Lynn, Paul Cassidy for Padraig Cassidy.