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Russell completes comeback to land Linden joy

Ballymena 2 Armagh 3

By Graham Hamilton

Three goals in 14 blistering second half minutes saw Armagh come back from the dead to land the Linden Cup at Deramore yesterday afternoon.

The Senior One side seemed to have squandered their chance of silverware when they trailed 2-0 to Ballymena going into the later stages of the game.

But then their changed tactic of pressing high began paying dividends and Stephen Pillow, Philip Hutton and Matthew Russell all converted from set pieces to turn the final on its head.

It was a hard pill to swallow for Junior League Four side Ballymena who controlled the first half and built up what looked like a comfortable two-goal lead, with a 23rd minute goal from Ethan Archer and a penalty corner two minutes later by Andy Lorimer.

But Armagh, who began pressing high in the second half, finally broke the deadlock in the 51st minute through Pillow who converted a penalty stroke, and after that the floodgates suddenly opened.

Hutton scrambled home the second following a penalty corner in the 58th minute and the comeback was complete six minutes later when Russell's drag flick penalty corner found the net to leave the final score 3-2.

Ballymena's Richard McNabb was dismissed late on for his second yellow card offence.

Meanwhile, Ireland men's coach Craig Fulton, who is planning ahead for the World League 2 series at Stormont in March, received the first piece of good news for the New Year when striker Peter Caruth revealed he will be fit and available for selection despite what seemed a recurrence of the ankle injury which sidelined him for 18 months.

Caruth scored a hat-trick in the Kirk Cup final on Boxing Day as Annadale thumped Cookstown 8-1 but hurt his ankle while converting his third goal.

The initial fear was that either the anchor which had been placed in his ankle in that previous operation had snapped, or else a bone had broken, but the Dale's player/coach has had check-ups and been given the all-clear.

In fact, there is every chance the striker will be available for his club's crunch Ulster Premier League clash against Cookstown at the Co Tyrone venue this Saturday, and that he will be able to continue as planned with the international training squad ahead of the World League 2 series.

Annadale, though, still have an injury concern over one other player ahead of Saturday's game, with Callum Robson unlikely to feature over the next few weeks following a knee injury, also picked up in that memorable Kirk Cup final win.

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