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Slick Down edge into the last four

Armagh 1-05 Down 0-11

By John Campbell

A power-packed first half performance highlighted by superb finishing ultimately proved Down's passport into the Ulster U21 football championship semi-finals when they proved superior to Armagh at the Athletic Grounds last night.

By half-time the writing was on the wall for Armagh –and in block capitals, too.

The only mystifying factor at that juncture was that Down enjoyed a six-point lead rather than double that advantage given their almost complete authority.

Fast, incisive and bitingly cohesive, they systematically lacerated the home rearguard with Danny Savage the tormentor-in-chief.

The impish full-forward complemented his crucial early brace of points with a similar contribution just prior to the break and sandwiched between these lethal blows to Armagh morale Ryan O'Hare, Michael Monan and Ryan Johnston also hit the target.

In response, the orchard county mustered a solitary score, a 16th minute point from Eddie English that proved nothing more than a mere pinprick in Down's soaring confidence.

But after the break the home team, buoyed by substitutes Patrick Burns, Callum Comiskey and Aaron Findon, carried much more menace.

And even though Down opened up an eight-point gap, the host side staged a strong finish, two points from Niall McConville and a spectacular goal from a free by Aidan Forker ensuring that the final scoreline was given a more respectable demeanour.

Armagh: C McKeown; R McCaughley, D Mullan, R Finnegan; P Crilly, J King, D O'Neill; E Rafferty, P Carragher; S McCoy, N McConville (0-2, both frees), M McKenna; E English (0-1), A Forker (1-1), J Hall (0-1). Subs: A Findon for Carragher , P Burns for Mullan, C Cumiskey for McCoy (all half-time), R Rafferty for English (55), N Grimley for McKenna (59). Yellow cards: Comiskey (49 mins), Hall (59), McConville (60).

Down: M Cunningham; R Lively, G McGovern, D Murtagh; R Johnston, C McCartan, D O'Hanlon (0-2) ; C Gough, C Maginn; J Johnston (0-1), M Bagnall, S McArdle (0-1); M Monan (0-2), D Savage (0-4, 0-2 frees), R O'Hare (0-1). Subs: D Gilmore for O'Hare (25 mins), M Madine for Monan (53), P Murdock for McArdle (57). Yellow card: Monan (10 mins)

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