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Greene on a high after Derrygonnelly break curse and progress on Ulster stage

Derrygonnelly Harps 2-8 Armagh Harps 1-8

By John Campbell

In the swirling pre-match speculation, only one certainty ensued and that was the prediction that a Harps team would come out on top.

In the event, it was a 10-minute window at the outset of the contest which ultimately decided that Martin Greene's fired-up Derrygonnelly had finally shed their country cousins image in the Ulster Club Football Championship.

It mattered not that their breakthrough was achieved in miserable, damp conditions or that it was anything but a game for the purist, or indeed that four red cards were brandished by overworked referee Dan Mullan.

When Paul Ward tucked away an eighth-minute penalty after full-back Tiernan Daly had been stretchered off three minutes earlier and man of the match Conal Jones thundered in a second goal 90 seconds later having already pocketed a point, it was the Erne County Harps that were providing the sweetest symphony.

They may have subsequently struck discordant notes but not to the extent that their passage into the semi-finals was ever endangered.

The second-half flurry of red cards which saw the host side's Denis Greene and Gary McKenna (two yellows) along with Armagh's Conor Coulter and Gareth Swift exit the tie prematurely might have hinted at a contest that was less than savoury.

Yet there was no compelling evidence of a sinister undercurrent, no marked intent to invoke lawlessness.

Instead the commitment, drive and bravado of both sides underlined what it meant for them to be doing battle on a higher plateau - a fact admitted by relieved Derrygonnelly manager Martin Greene.

"To be honest, it's great to get this Ulster Club monkey off our backs," said Greene.

"This was a special result for us, a first win in the provincial series. I thought that my players gave it everything they had and we had some immense individual performances from players like Conal Jones, Ryan Jones and others."

"I know that four players were sent off but there was never any real malice.

"Now we must focus on the Ulster semi-finals and see where we can go from here, although I think this victory will give us the chance to maybe make further progress in the competition."

In compiling 1-5, Conal Jones made a telling contribution while the combative leadership of Ryan Jones also served Derrygonnelly well.

Ahead by 2-4 to 0-4 at the interval after Armagh Harps had roused themselves to secure a brace of points from Ultan Lennon along with one each from Joe McElroy and substitute Gareth Swift, Derrygonnelly plodded rather than surged through the second half of the contest - however, they still managed to keep John Toner's side in check and see out the victory.

When Lennon eventually squeezed the ball into the net for Armagh in injury-time, it was a reward for his tenacity but by then Derrygonnelly were already embracing a whole new world.

Derrygonnelly Harps: D Feely; S McGullion, T Daly, M Jones; D Green, E McHugh, G McGinley; R Jones, G Jones 0-1; K Cassidy, P Ward 1-0 (pen), D Cassidy; G McKenna, L Jones 0-1, C Jones 1-5 (1f). Subs: S McGullion 0-1 for Daly (5 mins), N Gallagher for S McGullion (58), A McKenna for Cassidy (65), S Jones for Ward (66). Yellow card: McKenna (25).

Red cards: Greene (42), McKenna (55).

Armagh Harps: P Morrison; S Farry, K Loughran, C Stevenson; R McGrath, D McKenna, M McConville 0-1; L Oliver, C White; R McShane 0-1, J McElroy 0-1, T O'Kane; C Vernon, U Lennon 1-2 (1-0 pen, 1 '45', 1f), S McCoy.

Subs: J Loughran for K Loughran (26), G Swift 0-2 (1f) for McGrath (29), C Coulter for Oliver (h/t), C Murphy 0-1 for O'Kane (38), E Fields for McCoy (54).

Yellow cards: McConville (30), White (49).

Red cards: Coulter (42), Swift (43).

Referee: Dan Mullan (Derry)

Belfast Telegraph


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