A heavy defeat for Minors.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

A PART from the first quarter, when Armagh were competitive, on top and held a lead, this game became an embarrassing one-sided affair in which a very organised Derry Minor side outclassed their hosts for a decisive victory by a margin of 15 points in this Ulster Minor Championship Round Two Qualifier tie at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh.

ARMAGH (U-17)...1-5
DERRY (U-17)...3-14

An excellent first touch, blessed with excellent evasion skills and great off the shoulder support by team-mates, their penetrative triangular advantage ball passing at speed cut lanes through the Armagh defence and were finished by scores of the highest quality - the combination of all these were Derry's match winning weapons.

Armagh persisted with a 'sweeper' for most of the game and regularly hit the ball high into full-forward to little effect or shot, too often wide from distance.

Derry thwarted both these ploys by using either a triangular switch-play fist-pass running game with numerous numerous goal chances or 30 to 40 metre advantage kick passes.

They also as Armagh crowded their own square to outnumber Armagh's 'two' or 'one' inside man by six to seven surrounding Derry players.

Thus, after the first 12 minutes when scores had hit 1-3 they managed only two more points in the game with the first coming 48 minutes after Armagh's last first quarter score; that's 78% time wise of the game scoreless.

Armagh did start off the much brighter with a point inside 25 seconds after Conor Hughes fed Louis Hughes for a fine opening score.

Derry were there to win also, endorsed by a run of three points without reply through Aiden McCluskey and Enda Downey (2, 1 free, 1 long range), son of All-Ireland winner Seamus, and Enda looks tailor-made for Senior success.

Armagh stayed competitive and regained the lead in a sparkling two minute spell.

Michael King's cross-field bouncing pass was cleverly flicked over a defender's head by Shane Donnelly, who then gained possession, soloed forward and planted a brilliant rasping volley in the net.

From the kick-out, Armagh won a free which Eoin Woods converted for a second game lead of two points. In another move, Armagh went three up through Louis Hughes.

Alas, they would only score once for another 48 minutes as Derry assumed total dominance and by the interval the Oak Leafs were five points ahead.

Through penetrative, fast paced attacks at regular intervals, Derry bagged two goals and three points in a six minute blistering period of front foot attacks.

Enda Downey and Sean Kearney pointed frees, as stand-off, zonal defenders were forced to foul. Midfield Niall Doyle brilliantly high-fielded a kick-out and five sets of 1/2 passes finished with Ethan Doherty volleying to the net.

Soon after Enda Downey landed a long range free which hit post and crossbar before going over.

Less than a minute later, another great pitch length move saw Shea Murray hit a delightfully placed across the 'keeper volley to the net.

Armagh managed to quell Derry's scoring glut as Peter McGrane fed Eoin Woods for a point.

Soon after Peter McGrane's massive block prevented a Derry goal with two brilliant Caolan McParland saves preventing two more goals past the 'keeper earlier.

Half-time arrived as Armagh trailed 2-6 to 1-4 and faced a mighty challenge come second half.

The second half was as 'one-sided' as any game could be.

To be brief, Derry punished Armagh in every sector of the pitch and by the 24th minute of the half they had added another goal and six points to their half time total whilst Armagh were yet to score again.

One minute into the half, Eunan McElhennon extended Derry's lead by a point and five minutes later, the Oak Leafs 'put the game to bed'.

The pace and evasion skills of Sean Kearney earned a penalty which Eoghan Hawe dispatched low to the corner superbly.

Nine points down and Armagh's cause was virtually hopeless as Derry continued to be rampant.

By the 23rd minute, the visitors had added another five points through Eoghan Hawe, Enda Downey (2, the first of which would have been easier to goal but he blazed over), Shea Murray and Conleth McGuckin.

One minute later, Armagh garnered their first and only point of the half through overlapping full back, Lee Rice, but later received a 'redcard'.

The last two game scores came in injury time and both were well crafted points by Jamie Dougan and Donal O'Kane for an emphatic 15 point victory.

In the second half, Derry allowed themselves to substitute their entire starting forwards.

Despite being second best, every Armagh player gave of their best on the day but all will need to learn the lessons which presented themselves on the day.

All competed wholeheartedly with goalkeeper Caolan McParland (an excellent display in all aspects of goal-keeping), Peter McGrane, Louis Hughes and Shane Donnelly the players who enhanced reputations on the day.

Derry's win was a huge team effort but I'm sure more will be heard of Enda Downey, Conleth McGuckin, Eoghan Hawe and Johnny McErlain in the years ahead.


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