Armagh edge past Barton's Derry fledgings
Armagh 2-20 Derry 3-13
Armagh will be playing more Gaelic football in December, where the result matters little, and context is everything.
They defeated a Derry selection here that were mostly plucked from their development squads and extended panel. No fewer than 17 men made their senior debut in the Oak Leaf jersey according to selector Hugh McGrath, with quite a few of those names being instantly familiar to followers of the MacRory Cup with their exploits in the St Pat's Maghera jersey.
The game was not played with the 'mark' rule as expected, as an application came too late to the GAA's central competition's control committee. However, that did not prevent both sides exceeding their permitted number of subs in the official rules.
Derry's seven replacements at half-time halted the progress of their team who scored 1-4 in eight minutes as the first half wound down to go in 1-8 to 0-7 ahead at the break.
Armagh would register 11 of the next 13 scores to go out in front, goals arriving from Joe McElroy and Aidan Forker to secure a place in the final in a fortnight's time, against the winner of this Sunday's other semi-final between Tyrone and Louth.
"This type of December football, gives everybody an idea of where they are," said the Orchard manager, Kieran McGeeney.
"We're trying to get ready for the McKenna Cup after Christmas. We didn't really have any football until this point - a lot of fellas are doing their gym work and that sort of stuff so for them it's good to get out playing games."
"We have a lot of new faces in this year so it was good to see them and the older faces who are coming back from injury."
Armagh had a more familiar look to their panel, but there were notable contributions, not least from the unheralded Oisín MacIomhair.
"Oisin MacIomhair, who I've been trying to push this last couple of years, did well too and Conor White tried very hard in the first half as well," added McGeeney.
"It's definitely good to see a few new faces and we have a couple more there looking to push up so that's good."
Derry's manager Damian Barton is trying to piece together a squad with several high-profile members of last year's team unavailable for one reason or another in 2017.
After Armagh got the scoreboard moving at the start, they were the dominant side for the rest of the first half and after half an hour were seven points in front.
However, the multiple half-time chances led to a slump and the inexperience of the replacements told.
"They had a baptism of fire in the sense that Armagh are a physically well conditioned team and I think a few of them had a wake-up call but we footballed our way back into it," said Barton of the slow start, when it took them 16 minutes to get their first score.
"Danny Tallon I thought was brilliant in the first half. Unfortunately we had to play him a bit deeper in the second half but we had a plethora of guys on there from the academy squad or the under 21s and that's their first exposure to senior football."
He acknowledged, "3-13 on the board still isn't bad and I'd definitely have taken that before we arrived although we don't like getting beaten.
"But that's what this competition and this time of year are all about - giving people football. We have a bit to do physically and psychologically as well but we are where we are and we're working at it.
"Some of the younger guys were saying there that they just couldn't believe the step up and I think it's great that those guys are there. It's something we haven't done in the past to bring players through."
Armagh: P Morrison; R McCaughey, B Donaghy, P Hughes; N Rowland, S Heffron, J McElroy 1-0; B Crealey, E Rafferty 0-2, 1f, 1x'45'; R Grugan 0-2, 1f, C White, A Forker 1-2; O O'Neill 5, 2f, P Casey 0-2, O MacIomhair 0-4
Subs: S McCoy for Rowland (27), S Campbell 0-1 for White (half-time), G McParland for Casey (54), S Sheridan for Rafferty (54), D McKenna for Crealey A Duffy for MacIomhair (64),
Yellow cards: Grugan (57)
Black cards: Hughes (15m), replaced by C Higgins 0-2
Red cards: 0
Derry: B McKinless; C McGrogan, M McEvoy, N Keenan; P Coney, C McWilliams 0-2, N Forester; A McLaughlin, J Kielt 0-2f; J Doherty 0-1, R Bell, M Warnock 0-1; B Grant 1-0, N Loughlin 0-4, 3f, D Tallon 0-2
Subs: R Murphy for Coney (20), C Mullen Young for McKinless, F Higgins for Doherty, D Curran 0-1f for Bell, N Toner 1-0 for Warnock, F Kearney for Grant, P Hagan for Forester, C Maunsell for Keenan (all half-time), O Duffin for McGrogan (45)
Yellow cards: R Murphy (33)
Black cards: J Kielt (41), replaced by C Doherty 1-0
Red cards: 0
Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan)