How Derry Defeated Armagh to Reach Dr McKenna Cup Final
Derry secured their spot in the Dr McKenna Cup final with a convincing 0-17 to 2-7 win over Armagh at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday. The Ulster champions dominated the second half, led by All-Star forward Shane McGuigan, who scored nine points in total.
Derry Start Strongly
A crowd of 4,437 witnessed Derry’s impressive performance, as they raced into an early three-point lead. Conor Doherty opened the scoring on 46 seconds, shooting over when a goal looked on.
McGuigan and Cormac Murphy, on his debut, added two more points before Blaine Hughes in the home net made a miraculous save to deny Diarmuid Baker a goal.
Armagh Fight Back
Armagh settled into the game and got their first score on 12 minutes, courtesy of defender Sean Conlon. Dan Higgins quickly restored Derry’s three-point cushion, but Armagh hit a purple patch of their own, registering 1-3 without reply.
Oisin O’Neill landed a free, then efforts from play by Justin Kieran and Ben Crealey levelled proceedings at four points apiece.
The first goal for the hosts came on 23 minutes, a real mix of fortune and skill. O’Neill’s attempted effort at a point dropped short, allowing Conlon to jink and jive before smashing into the net, a finish not traditional for a corner-back.
Derry Draw Level at Half-Time
The Ulster champions responded well to the setback, and drew level before the half-hour mark, thanks to three on the spin from McGuigan, two long-range frees and one from play.
Oak Leaf goalkeeper Odhran Lynch was called into action in the last real play of the first half, denying Justin Kieran from point-blank range to keep the score level 1-4 to 0-7 at half-time.
Derry Take Control in Second Half
McGuigan got Derry off to a bright start in the second half with two early frees. The Armagh reply was emphatic, as Cian McConville’s shot was saved by Lynch and not cleared by the Derry defence, allowing Crealey to punch into the empty net.
McGuigan and O’Neill continued to exchange scores, while Paul Cassidy pointed off his left to level the sides for a fifth time entering the final quarter.
Mickey Harte’s side finished the stronger with further scores from Murphy and McGuigan, before Eoin McEvoy got forward from full-back to fist over and put three between the sides.
McGuigan’s ninth score of the evening put the icing on the cake for Derry, who will play Monaghan or Donegal in the final on 20 January.
The second semi-final will take place at Castleblayney on Sunday (13:00 GMT).