Late point enough for Armagh in Cup derby
Down 3-11 Armagh 2-15: A last minute point from corner back Paul Duffy gave Armagh victory over neighbours Down as both teams got their season underway with a typical derby encounter at Pairc Esler on Saturday night.
Before the teams got down to the serious business of football there was a sad formality to go through.
In keeping with all Gaelic games played over the weekend a one minute silence was a observed as a mark of respect for the late Michaela McAreavey.
Down manager James McCartan has in recent weeks been a critic of the training ban in December and for the opening twenty minutes Down played as thought they were trying to give support to the managers wrath.
Down at this stage trailed 0-08 to 0-1 and had it not been for the brilliance of debutant goalkeeper Cathal Murdock the game might well have been over, the Burren clubman did look nervous but he did distinguish himself with three excellent first half stops from McParlan Watters and Mallon as the visitors threatened to overrun the home side. After last year great run Down will be under scrutiny but manager McCartan is obviously using the McKenna cup to unearth some talent.
Six of is starting fifteen saw some of the Croke Park action against Cork: they were McKiernan in defence, Fitzpatrick in midfield and Maginn, Coulter, Clarke and Murtagh up front.
The inexperienced Down defence were troubled by the pace of the Armagh forwards who were getting a good supply of the ball from midfielder Lavery.
But as James Colgan at centre half and newcomer Sheeran at midfield came to terms with the pace of the game, Down set about reducing the seven-point deficit.
Four unanswered points changed the complexion of the scoreboard and then a typical five man down move saw Benny Coulter slip the ball to Peter Fitzpatrick to leave the half time score Down 1-06 Armagh 0-09.
Down started then second half as they ended the first playing some excellent football with Martin Clarke.
Benny Coulter and Anto Duffy got goals at opposite ends but when Coulter got downs third with seven minutes remaining to put Down back in front it looked like they might hold out.
By now both sides had emptied their respective benches, notable among the replacements were Liam Doyle for Down and former Mayo man Billy Joe Padden making his Armagh debut.
Armagh finished with points from Paul Duffy, Conor Clarke and substitute Declan McKenna to run out winners by the narrowest of margins.
Scorers: Down: Benny Coulter 2-01 Aidan Carr 0-03 Martin Clarke 0-03 Peter Fitzpatrick 1-00, Conor Maginn Ronan Murtagh Michael Magee 0-01 each.
Armagh: Brian Mallon 1-01 Anto Duffy 1-00 Rory Grugan 0-03 Michael O’Rourke 0-03 Gavin McParland 0-02 Colm Watters Declan McKenna Joe Feeney Paul Duffy Conor Clarke 0-01 each.
Down: Murdock, McPolin, McCardle, McKiernan, Anderson, Colgan, Duffin, Sheeran, Fitzpatrick, Maginn, Carr, Coulter, Devlin, Murtagh, Clarke. Subs used: Magee for Sheeran (46); Poland for Maginn (53); Lavery for Clarke (56); Doyle for Anderson ( 57) K King for Carr (54)
Armagh: McEvoy, Martin, Toner, Duffy, Dyas, McKenna, Fine, Vernon, Mackin, Grogan, O’Rourke, Duffy, McParland, Mallon, Watters. Subs used: Padden for Feeney (49) Clarke for Waters (49), Murtagh for McParland (50)
Referee: J J Cleary (Derry).