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Armagh deliver on their promise

By John Campbell

Armagh fended off a fierce challenge from a resilient Antrim side before eventually coming out on top in this stirring Ulster U21 football championship quarter-final replay at Pairc Esler, Newry last night.

Antrim had scarcely moved out of second gear when they were dealt what proved to a mortal blow.

Full-forward Ronan McGrady, so impressive in last week's drawn encounter, was dismissed by referee Eamon McHugh in the 13th minute after an off the ball incident.

McGrady had earlier whipped over a sixth-minute free, in response to a similar score from Callum Comiskey, and although Ryan Murray and Jemar Hall traded points, Steven McDonnell's side began to profit from having an extra man.

It was the accurate Hall who sparked a mini-blitz of points by hoisting over a '45' before Blaine Malone swept through for a fine score which was followed by an equally skilful effort from Ciaran O'Hanlon and then the team's sixth from the very lively Comiskey.

Antrim, confined to spasmodic raids, registered just one point in 18 minutes when Dermot McAleese landed a long-range effort to leave his side 0-6 to 0-3 behind at the break.

The Saffrons derived inspiration from Paddy McBride at the start of the second-half when his three points proved a robust Antrim response to an opening brace from Comiskey and McKenna.

And even when Paul McGeown and Eddie English were on target for Armagh, Antrim cemented their tenacity and by the 48th minute had trimmed Armagh's advantage to just one point at 0-10 to 0-9.

Two spectacular saves from Antrim goalkeeper Ronan Gallagher ensured his side remained in contention, but two elegant points from Paul McGeown and another from substitute Jack Grugan ultimately ushered Armagh into a semi-final meeting with Donegal.

It promises to be an intriguing showdown between two promising sides.

Armagh: D O'Hagan; D ONeill, S Kelly, C McCooey; D O'Hagan, M Murphy, J McElroy; A Findon, B Malone (0-1); P McGeown (0-3, 0-1f), M McKenna (0-1), C Comiskey (0-3, 0-3f); E English (0-1), C O'Hanlon (0-1), J Hall (0-2, 0-1 '45'). Subs: P Crilly for Murphy (41), C MacIomhair for English (50), J Grugan (0-1) for Hall (68), E Burns for McKenna (68).

Antrim: R Hanna; C O'Rawe, N Delargy, F O'Neill; M McGarry, R Wilson, E Killough; O Gallagher (0-1), D Nugent; R Murray (0-1f), P Nugent, D McAleese (0-1); P McBride (0-5, 0-1f)), R McGrady (0-1 free, L McCurdy. Subs: K Quinn for P Nugent (41), R Lynch for McCurdy (44), R McCann for Gallagher (50), C McCann for Wilson (65). Cards: Yellow: Delargy (51). Red: McGrady (13).

Referee: Eamon McHugh (Tyrone).

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