Orchard County bloom as Armagh seals mighty victory against Antrim
Antrim 1-04 - Armagh 2-11
Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney admitted he had "no issues" with Jamie Clarke's sending off in his side's 10-point win over Antrim in yesterday's McKenna Cup Group C clash at Creggan, but has called for more protection for the game's marquee players.
Clarke saw red in the 63rd minute for a second bookable offence as Armagh coasted to victory over the Saffrons.
"He's a good player, he gets around people, other players get frustrated, they lash out at him, he lashes back. He shouldn't, but you would like to see a bit more protection," said McGeeney.
"It's frustrating but he has to learn to be disciplined. Just because the ref is not taking care of it doesn't mean you can. It wasn't much, I've no issues with it."
McGeeney also took the assembled reporters to task over negative and sensationalist reporting, accusing commentators of having an 'Eastenders complex'.
"I think football is going from strength to strength. I think we're the only sport in the world that likes to play a bit of Eastenders. 'It's miserable', 'it's terrible' - but that has more to do with the people commenting on it," he said.
"I think we could be a bit more positive about things but positive headlines don't sell. I should know better and keep my mouth shut."
Armagh led from start to finish after Stefan Forker opened the scoring after six minutes. He and Antrim's Owen Gallagher shared the game's first five points, with Armagh leading by 0-3 to 0-2 after 15 minutes.
With the driving runs of Mark Shields and Aaron Findon causing problems for the Antrim defence, the visitors added three unanswered points which gave Armagh a 0-6 to 0-2 lead at the break.
A Clarke free extended the lead, and it was the Armagh talisman who turned provider for McKeever to raise the first green flag of the game. His first effort was well saved by Antrim keeper Chris Kerr, but the rebound fell kindly.
McGourty then converted Antrim's first score for 25 minutes but three more points without reply from Armagh underlined the visitors' dominance.
Antrim's best chance of a goal came when Conor Murray's point attempt cannoned off the post on 45 minutes and fell for McGourty. Matthew McNiece was equal to the task, however.
Sub Colm Fleming's fisted effort sailed just wide, while at the other end Gavin McParland should have done better when latching on to McKeever's rebound. Armagh's second goal did arrive when Stefan Campbell set up Forker to fist to the net for a 2-11 to 0-4 lead in the dying seconds, with McGourty's penalty conversion proving the last action of the game.
Armagh now face St Mary's UC in the final Group C clash, while Antrim travel to Tyrone. Both games take place on Wednesday.
Antrim boss Frank Fitzsimons said: "It's a massive step up in class against Armagh. We have 14 men to come into that panel and it's very hard against quality like that.
"I think last week Armagh made one debut, we made 10 so we are using the McKenna Cup to look at players. It's a big learning curve for some of the young lads."