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McKeever sets Armagh on the road to victory

Armagh 1-14 Antrim 1-9

On target: Dara O’Callaghan got three points for Armagh
On target: Dara O’Callaghan got three points for Armagh

By Paddy Tierney

A powerful first half display from Armagh helped them ease to a comfortable five-point victory over Antrim in Saturday's Ulster Minor Football Championship Qualifiers.

A goal from Mark McKeever on 10 minutes helped the home side to a commanding 1-10 to 0-4 lead at half-time with Rian Lennon scoring all of his side's first half points.

A goal from Calum Higgins on 40 minutes raised the possibility of an Antrim comeback, but the home side always had enough in hand.

The sides were evenly matches for the opening 10 minutes with Lennon getting Antrim off the mark before Antrim replied with back-to-back points from Ciaran Donnelly and Adam Garvey. Lennon landed his second of the evening from a free, but the Antrim rearguard were opened up with a brilliant passage of play from Armagh.

A long diagonal ball from midfielder Dara O'Callaghan was superbly fetched by Mark McKeever at full-forward and the Tullysaran youngster was great composure to slot the ball past the advancing Jonathan Rodgers.

Antrim may have got a sense that it wasn't going to be their night when a Calum Higgins attempt at a point crashed off the crossbar and away from danger and the Orchardmen outscored their opponents 0-8 to 0-2 for the remainder of the half.

McKeever brought his tally to 1-2 while O'Callaghan (two) and King were unerring from frees while Caolan Reavey also bagged two classy points as the hosts led 1-10 to 0-4 at the break.

Scores from Donnelly and another free from O'Callaghan stretched the lead to 11 early in the half, but Armagh suffered a double blow within the space of 60 seconds at opposite ends of the pitch.

Full-forward McKeever was forced off after picking up a dead leg following a collision with Antrim goalkeeper Rodgers while Higgins rattled a goal past Shea Magill at the other end.

Despite the best efforts of Glenravel attacker Lennon, who finished with 0-9 to his credit, Armagh were able to keep them at arm's length with Reavey and substitute Niall Dummigan landing late insurance points.

Armagh scorers: M McKeever 1-2, C Reavey 0-3, D O'Callaghan 0-3 (0-3fs), C Donnelly 0-2, O King 0-2 (0-2fs), A Garvey 0-1, N Dummigan 0-1.

Antrim scorers: R Lennon 0-9 (0-6fs), C Higgins 1-0.

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