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Armagh Harps on song for Minor challenge

A strong performance in difficult conditions has shot Armagh Harps into the final of the Northern Bank Ulster Minor Football Champions' tournament, at St Paul's Complex in Belfast.

In yesterday's semi-final battle, the Harps defeated Antrim champions St John's by 1-7 to 1-5 after a determined display by both teams in difficult conditions on a sticky pitch.

Overall, the winners deserved to reach the final as they were stronger and more direct when in front of goal.

The underfoot conditions didn't suit the lighter St John's attack but they might well have snatched victory with a bit of luck.

A teasing cross from the right wing in the last quarter crashed off the opposite post and dropped into a defender's grasp.

The winners, with strong performances from Joe McElroy, Shea Grimley and the brilliant Conor White, raced into a 0-5 to 0-0 lead after 20 minutes before St John's had their first serious attack. They didn't record a wide until the 22nd minute.

Padraig Nugent got the Belfast boys' first score from a free-kick in the 25th minute before their keeper Eoghan Rua Lambert pulled off a great save, at the expense of a fruitless ‘45', from White.

Two minutes after the restart McElroy increased Harps' lead but St John's then took control for the next quarter of an hour.

Skipper Patrick McBride, after a great run through from half-back, pointed, midfielder Ronan McCafferty added another point and Matthew Fitzpatrick rifled over another to close the gap to two points (0-6 to 0-4).

However, with danger signals flashing, Harps took a grip of the action again and the effective Mathew Hynds pointed a free-kick.

The Armagh champions then all but wrapped up their place in the final with a defence splitting move, involving Grimley and Hynds to send White through for a great goal, White placing the ball wide of Lambert and into the left corner of the net.

McBride answered with another St John's point and their goal, right on the hour, arrived too late for a grandstand finish.

At the start of extra-time, St John's midfield man Ronan McCafferty was injured and had to be taken to hospital.

Five yellow cards were issued and St John's Padraig Nugent got a red after his second yellow on 61 minutes.

Armagh Harps will play either Watty Graham's from Glen in Derry or O'Raghallaigh Gaels from Cavan in the final on New Year's Day. The second semi-final will be played on Boxing Day.

ARMAGH HARPS: C McShane; J Loughran, S Farry, R McGrath; O McConville, C White (1-2), J McElroy (0-1; P Campbell, S Grimley; E Fields, M Hynds (0-1, free), D Donnelly; L Grimley, T Marley, R McShane (0-3, 2f). Subs: A Rath for L Grimley (30), L Grimley for Rath (40).

ST JOHN'S: ER Lambert; M Dudley, J Hannigan, C Morgan; P McBride (0-2), Ciaran Johnston, M Fitzpatrick (0-1); O Douglas, R McCafferty (0-1); L McCurdy, P Nugent (0-1, free), L Peden; Conor Johnston, D Quinn, F Morgan (1-0). Subs: D Carson for Quinn (half-time), R McNulty for Peden (55), D Quinn for Morgan (61). T Thibodeau for McCafferty, inj (61).

Referee: M McErlain (Derry).

Belfast Telegraph

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