Armagh 2-21 Monaghan 4-17
It was heartbreak in Pairc Esler for Armagh following a truly heroic effort. They will look back on this game as one that got away.
The Orchard men were on the brink of returning to the Ulster final for the first time in 13 years, but it wasn’t to be.
It didn’t look good at half time. Four first half goals for the Farney men had them ahead by seven after 35 minutes.
Monaghan were deservingly ahead at the break, with Jack McCarron causing serious problems at full forward.
Aidan Forker steadied the ship when introduced just before the interval, but the damage was done by that stage.
Armagh rallied in the second period and left everything they had on the pitch. The introduction of Clann Eireann’s Conor Turbitt and Tiernan Kelly helping to turn the tide.
‘Turbo’ found the net with one of the best moves you’ll see this year. Shea Magill launched a long restart towards midfield, where the inspirational Rian O’Neill outmuscled his man.
The Crossmaglen star drilled the ball to the full-forward line, and Turbitt’s punch caught out the oncoming Rory Beggan.
Kelly found the net with a superb individual goal shortly after, but he’ll have Rory Grugan’s work rate to thank as well.
The Ballymacnab man never gave up and forced a turnover in Armagh’s attacking side of the field, pressing a Monaghan man over the sideline.
Kelly excited the crowd as he mazed his way through the Monaghan rear-guard and slotted home his sides second goal.
Andrew Murnin and Ross McQuillan swung over stunning efforts as Armagh pinned Monaghan into their own half.
When Rian O’Neill and Murnin were back displaying their defensive qualities, it looked for a moment that it was Armagh’s day.
But up stepped Conor McManus, who’s class can never be questioned. The Clontibret man earned himself two late frees and split the posts on both occasions.
Another hard luck story for Armagh, but lots to build upon for Kieran McGeeney’s youthful side.
Morale victories will mean nothing to the Orchardmen, but they did the orange and white proud.
Armagh Team: Shea Magill, James Morgan, Aaron McKay, Ryan Kennedy, Ciaron O’Hanlon 0-1, Greg McCabe 0-1, Connaire Mackin, Niall Grimley 0-1, Oisin O’Neill 0-3, Jemar Hall, Rian O’Neill 0-6, Jarly Og Burns 0-1, Rory Grugan 0-3, Andrew Murnin 0-1, Stefan Campbell 0-1. Subs: Aidan Forker for A. McKay, Conor Turbitt 1-1 for N. Grimley, Conor O’Neill 0-1 for C. O’Hanlon, Tiernan Kelly 1-0 for J. Hall, Ross McQuillan 1-0 for C. Mackin
Monaghan Team: Rory Beggan 0-2, Kieran Duffy, Conor Boyle, Ryan Wylie, Karl O’Connell, Killian Lavelle, Ryan McAnespie, Darren Hughes 1-0, Niall Kearns 0-1, Michael Bannigan 1-0, Aaron Mulligan, Dessie Ward 0-2, Conor McCarthy 0-1, Jack McCarron 1-1, Conor McManus 1-7. Subs: Stephen O’Hanlon 0-2 for C. McCarthy, Shane Carey 0-1 for A. Mulligan, Colin Walshe for K. O’Connell, Kieran Hughes for K. Lavelle, Andrew Woods for N. Kearns, Fintan Kelly for D. Hughes