Armagh hurlers lost their third consecutive Nicky Rackard final when they were outhurled by an impressive Derry outfit in Croke Park on Saturday. Derry claimed the trophy after a 3-23 to 2-15 victory to leave the Orchard side dejected once more.
The opening score came after 7 minutes when Alan Grant fired to the net. Armagh would have been disappointed at the manner of the goal as the referee checked the run of Eoin McGuinness, albeit accidentally, but despite preventing him from reaching the ball, he let the play go on. Armagh did make up the gap again with Nathan Curry and McGuinness hitting two, and Davy Carvill put Armagh ahead with a converted free after 15 minutes. Derry got a grip on the game however and a brace from Gerald Bradley and Alan Grant opened up a four point gap. Davy Carvill and Alan Grant traded scores from the dead ball and Bradley was again on target for the Oak Leat men. A score from Cahal Carvill after superb fielding from Ryan Gaffney looked to be an inspirational score for Armagh, but it was Derry who finished the half stronger with a couple of scores for Brian Cassidy. Armagh suffered a further blow at the end of the first half, as Artie McGuinness picked up an injury and was forced off.
HT Ard Mhacha 0-6 Doire 1-9
Derry got the second half off to a dream start with Brendan Rodgers pointing immediately from the throw in and his club mate, Gerald Bradley, was soon celebrating a second goal. An Alan Grant score increased the gap to 11 points before Davy Carvill stopped the rot by converting a free. Conor Corvan and Carvill again hit scores, before Derry substitute, Ruairí Convery announced his arrival in the game with a quick point. Carvill hit a good score from play, but the Derry dominance showed as Brian Cassidy, Chrissy McKaigue and Cormac Doherty restored the 11 point gap. David Carvill converted another free, but Armagh needed goals quickly and the three pointer duly arrived as Ryan Gaffney picked out a quality long-ball to finish to the net. Hawkeye was required to confirm a Brendan Rodgers effort and a good score from Cahal Carvill left Armagh with a fighting chance with just over 10 to go. However, Derry showed a killer instinct as a Brian Cassidy goal and a converted 65 from Convery after a super double save from Simon Doherty, were followed up by two points from Chrissy McKaigue. Armagh did make inroads into the 13 point margin with points from the Carvill cousins and one from the recently-introduced Dean Gaffney. Ryan Gaffney finished for a second three pointer for the Orchard, but with only two minutes remaining, Armagh had far too much to do and a strong finish from Derry with four more scores ensured that Derry’s Oisín McCloskey would lift the Nicky Rackard trophy.
FT Ard Mhacha 2-15 Doire 3-23
Armagh were naturally disappointed with the result, but there is no doubting that Derry were the better team on the day and were well worth the win. The Orchard hurlers can however hold their heads high, as they have taken the county to six finals in the past three years under the management of Sylvester McConnell, three All-Irelands, two Ulsters and last year’s league victory, which brought Armagh hurling to its highest level in Division 2A. Armagh hurling did receive good news on Saturday however, as the U17 squad had a good 2-13 to 1-12 win over Sligo in the quarter final of the Celtic Challenge.
Photos by John Merry