No gloss finish for Armagh as McGeeney shoots from the hip
Armagh 1-15 Derry 0-13
Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney saw his side book a Dr McKenna Cup semi-final meeting with Donegal by virtue of this hard-earned win over Derry at the Athletic Grounds yesterday, but in the process he was also provided with considerable food for thought.
The Orchard County side, who led by 1-8 to 0-5 at the break, had looked capable of imposing themselves on the contest even more forcibly after the break but when Derry sprung the accurate James Kielt from the bench the proceedings underwent a transformation.
The Kilrea sharpshooter potted five majestic long-range points, four from frees, that helped to thrust his side back into contention for a last four berth until Armagh salvaged the game through late points from Aaron Findon and Niall Rowland.
He may have been relieved to see his side take another step towards a trophy which the county have not won since 1994 but that did not deter him from mincing his words in relation to their finishing.
"I was not over the moon with our scoring," declared McGeeney afterwards.
"I felt in particular that we left a lot of goals behind us. We missed a number of easy shots, too.
"All this could have come back to haunt us but thankfully it didn't on this occasion."
"Having said that a number of the new guys are playing well."
Andrew Murnin's superbly-taken 20th minute goal had fired Armagh into a 1-3 to 0-3 lead and they built from there to where they were seemingly coasting at 1-10 to 0-5 early in the third quarter.
Kielt's stunning solo show, though, not only galvanised Derry but forced the home side on to the back foot to such an extent that they conceded five unanswered points between the 58th and 70th minute with hot-shot Kielt potting four of these.
At 1-12 to 0-13 Derry were very much back in business until Findon and Rowland allowed home supporters to breathe more easily via their late scores.
Derry manager Damian McErlain acknowledges that his side face into a big challenge.
"The league is on a different level altogether to the McKenna Cup and we have to be ready for it," he said.
Armagh: B Hughes; P Burns, A McKay, P Hughes; N Rowland 0-2, G McCabe, M Shields; S Sheridan, C Vernon 0-2; B Crealey, A Forker 0-1, R McShane; R Grugan 0-5 (3)f, A Murnin 1-1, E Rafferty. Subs: R Lappin for Crealey (5), M Stevenson 0-3 for Rafferty (18), B Donaghy for Burns (h/t), M McKenna for Forker (63), A Duffy for Grugan (63), A Findon 0-1 for Murnin (BC 66). Yellow card: Lappin (57). Black card: Murnin (66).
Derry: B McKinless; C McCluskey, M McEvoy, R Mooney 0-1; P Coney, M Bateson, L McGoldrick; C McAtamney 0-1, J Doherty; E Lynn 0-1, N Toner 0-1, C McFaul 0-1; C Doherty, M Lynch 0-2 (1f), P Hagan 0-1 (f). Subs: P Kearney for Bateson (44), J Kielt 0-5 (4f) for Lynch (44), F Higgins for Doherty (54). Yellow card: Kearney (62).
Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan)