Pearse Og ended a 17-year title famine when they reclaimed the Armagh senior football title at the expense of their great city rivals Harps in yesterday’s decider at the rain-lashed Athletic Grounds.
Statistics may not always provide the full narrative of any contest but on this occasion they offer an apt summary of a local derby that never quite hauled itself above the level of mediocre.
While Marc Cullen’s accurate free-taking — he hit the target on three occasions in amassing his four-point haul overall — and Anto Duffy’s spectacular brace from midfield immediately after the break underpinned this Ogs’ triumph.
Not only did they fail to score from play throughout the match but they were unable to record a score of any hue in a second half during which Pearse Og applied their own terms and conditions as they firmly stamped a foreclosure sign on their rivals hopes of glory.
If Harps were still clinging to a lifeline at the break when stalemate ensued at 0-4 each, it was more because Kevin Kelly and Ultan Lennon had potted frees in added time than through their route one policy which failed to pay dividends despite the solid efforts of skipper and target man Gareth Swift.
But with Ronan Clarke’s cultured imprint on much of their attacking strategy, Pearse Og carried rather more menace and with his brothers Sean and Conor chipping in with points to bolster Cullen’s early double strike, their composure up front was more pronounced.
And when the busy Duffy swung over his two long-range efforts in the 33rd and 38th minutes which were spliced by a further score from Sean Clarke, the pendulum had swung decisively in the Ogs’ favour.
Tyrone All Ireland winner Colin Holmes and Armagh county ace Charlie Vernon employed their strength and experience in striving to sustain the Harps’ challenge but with Chris Rafferty, Andy Mallon and the imperious Paul Duffy in unforgiving mood in the winners’ rearguard, their efforts proved in vain.
Pearse Og might well have enjoyed a more handsome victory margin had Sean Clarke’s 36th minute snapshot not somehow been diverted to safety by Harps custodian Conan Lennon.
But it was merely a stay of execution. With Cullen completing his solid contribution by landing further points from a free and play, Pearse Og cantered down the home straight, their journey to domestic success untarnished by the dismissals of substitutes J P Donnelly (Pearse Og) and Stephen McAneaney (Harps) in a heated climax.
\[Peter Hutcheon\]The Ogs will hardly require any reminding, though, that the Ulster Club Championship will present them with much more demanding assignments than that which they encountered yesterday.PEARSE OG: C McKinney (capt); G McCoy, D Parkinson, A Mallon; P Duffy, C Rafferty, D Davidson ; A Duffy (0-2), G Barton; K Hughes, R Clarke, D McManus; M Cullen (0-4, 0-3 frees) S Clarke (0-1), C Clarke (0-1 free). Subs: S Moore for C Clarke (36 mins), J P Donnelly for Davidson (44), R Clarke for McManus (51). Yellow cards: Hughes (35), Parkinson (46). Red card: J P Donnelly (60 mins).
HARPS: C Lennon; K Morris, C Holmes, M McConville; D Coulter, M McCoy, S Lennon; C Vernon, P McKinney; U Lennon (0-3, all frees), P McKenna, P Toal; E Toal, G Swift (capt), K Kelly (0-1 free). Subs: S Morrison for U Lennon (43 mins), J Quigley for Kelly (55), C McKee for McKinney (55), S McAneaney for McKenna (57), C Coulter for E Toal (57). Red card: McAneaney (60 mins).
Referee: Padraig Hughes (Crossmaglen).