Armagh 1-8 Down 3-5
Armagh U17’s first League encounter came against neighbours Down, in what played out to be a tight tussle between two evenly matched teams. The ‘game of two halves’ cliché lived up to its name as the typical February weather proved a difficult task for both sides. The strong wind advantage favoured Down in the first half while the relentless downpour left conditions underfoot unpredictable.
Down raced into an early lead, striking 2-2 during the opening quarter before Armagh had registered a shot. With the strong breeze blowing into their faces, Armagh struggled to break down what proved to be a teak tough Down defence. The visitors showed patience in pursuing their opening score and their persistence was rewarded in the 20th minute when Oisin King knocked over his sides first score.
Armagh’s tally was doubled from the resulting kickout as good work from their midfielders Jack Cunningham and Niall Dummigan set up Ciaran Donnelly who slotted the ball over from close range. Down replied almost instantly, stretching their lead to 7 within 2 minutes before they once again split the posts to leave the visitors uphill task an ever increasing steeper one.
Armagh were up for the battle however and with 3 minutes left to the break, Dara O’Callaghan provided the assist for Ciaran Donnelly’s ‘tap in’ goal, cutting Downs interval lead to 5 points, with the momentum seemly swinging in favour of the men in orange and white as they would now play the final 30 minutes with the wind to their backs. The half time score reading Armagh 1-2 Down 2-4.
Oisin King (free) and Niall Dummigan were both on target early in the second period to kick start Armagh’s revival before Caolan Reavey’s brilliant individual effort saw the deficit reduced to 2 points. Captain Sean McVerry burst forward for an inspirational score, smashing the ball over from 40 yards while Down widened the gap to 2 points with a converted free of their own.
McVerry’s heroics continued, this time at the other end of the field, as two full length blocks denied Down the chance to pull further ahead. Armagh continued to press forward, dominating Down’s restarts during this period however their poor shot selection meant they could never get level with their opponents.
Reavey once again worked his magic, a great one-two with Peter McGrane freeing up the space he needed to swing over his second leaving the minimum of margins between them. Disaster struck for Armagh as Down pushed further ahead in the next attack, rattling the net for the 3rd time in the game. Their lead was reduced to 3 with another King point but this would be the final score of the game.
A huge effort from the Armagh lads saw them get to within touching distance of the victors on numerous occasions, aided of course by the strong breeze, however they never led or drew level throughout the 60 minutes. Downs victory sees them sit at the top of the table in Section A of the Jim McGuigan Cup, with Armagh’s next outing coming next Saturday with a home tie against Antrim.
Team: Shea Magill, Peter McGrane, Adam Garvey, Shea Vallely, Thomas Og Duffy, Sean McVerry (0-1), Redmond French, Jack Cunningham, Niall Dummigan (0-1), Lee Rice, Dara O’Callaghan, Dan McCarthy, Caolan Reavey (0-2), Ciaran Donnelly (1-1), Oisin King (0-3, 3 frees)
Subs: Oran McCafferty for C. Donnelly, Jack Duffy for O. McCafferty (Black Card), Martin McGee for Jack Cunningham, Michael McConville for T. Og Duffy, Cathal Doherty for Shea Magill
By Shaun Casey