Derry 1-15; Armagh 0-18
(Derry win 3-1 on penalties)
With a backdrop of Rory Gallagher “stepping away” as Derry manager two days before, due to domestic abuse allegations, this Ulster final provided both sides with motivation aplenty to go outand do the business in Clones on Sunday.
And the real winners were the spectators who got value for money as both sides not only slogged it out kick for kick every step of the way but even after 20 minutes of extra time, they couldn’t be prised apart.
It was then the GAA made history as an Ulster Final was decided on penalties with Derry retaining their hard-earned crown as Kieran McGeeney’s Armagh collapsed in despair as Oak Leaf ‘keeper Odran Lynch emerged as man of the match with three brilliant spot kick saves against Rian O'Neill, Aidan Nugent and opposite No 1, Ethan Rafferty in a 3-1 victory margin.
Coach Ciaran Meenagh stepped into the breech as manager instead of Gallagher as a sell-out 29,000 crowd got a game of high tension and close scoring right through the extended game times.
With finals in the other three provinces one-way turkey shoots, once more it was left to the northern province to provide the drama and excitement in a game of first among equals.
Fifteen years since their last final appearance, Armagh came, saw and so nearly conquered but in the end they could not match the Derry will-to-win that saw them fight back against the loss of their manager at the eleventh hour.
Armagh started cagily with a huge emphasis on defence but despite this they gave away a soft goal when a speculative high ball by Paul Cassidy in the ninth minutes saw Brendan Rodgers fist it to the net to Rafferty caught in no-man’s land.
Slowly the Orchard started to bloom with Greg McCabe and Jarly Og Burns slotting over marks while Rian O’Neill converted a 55m free.
Rogers added a point and then the dangerous Shane McGuigan tapped over his second point to put his side three in front.
Slowly Armagh became more adventurous and began a high press on Lynch’s restarts, which was rewarded when O’Neill got their first score from open play and Ruairi Grugan added another from a free to leave the winners leading by a point, 1-5 to 0-7 at the short whistle.
Armagh came out resolute to get their noses ahead with scores from Ciaran Mackin and Conor O’Neill but Niall Toner, Conor Glass and McGuigan also found the target to maintain the slight upper-hand.
In desperation, Armagh went on an all out press and Rafferty, who had missed two long ranged efforts front play, finally pinged a monster to boost orange hopes.
The ever reliable McGuigan landed his fourth of the day but their sticky opponents kept in the hunt with an O’Neill “45” in the 69th minute.
The influential Jarly Og Burns showed great bravery to draw a foul off Rogers which O’Neill easily sent over to tie the game at full-time at 1-10 to 0-13.
With Rogers black-carded for that late foul, it looked as if Armagh would kick on to glory. Derry had to defend with all their lives and went behind for the first time in the game to a fine Ross McQuillan score.
With Burns cancelling out McGuigan’s free and with Rogers back, it was neck and neck down the final strait. Then Rafferty landed another monster score from play to put two between the sides. What were Derry made of? We needn’t have worried as they scored the next three points, thanks to McGuigan’s seventh before going ahead through Lachlann Murray.
A foraging run by Stefan Campbell won a free for his side close to goal and O’Neill held his nerve to force over the equalizer and send the sides to penalties..
One or other goalkeeper invariably emerges as the hero in these situations and on Sunday it was Lynch who stepped up to the mark with three amazing saves. The successful Derry kicks were dispatched by McGuigan, Glass and sub Ciaran McFaul as Callum Cumiskey was the sole Orchard man to find the back of the net.
Derry: O Lynch; C McKaigue, E McEvoy, C McCluskey; C Doherty, G McKinless (0-1), P McGrogan; C Glass (0-1), B Rogers (1-2); B Heron, P Cassidy, E Doherty; N Toner (0-2f), S McGuigan (0-7 0-3f), N Loughlin (0-1) Subs: C McFaul for Heron (46), L Murray (0-1) for Loughlin (60), Padraig Cassidy for Doherty (63), Heron for Murray (71), Murray for Heron (83)
Armagh: E Rafferty (0-2); C O'Neill (0-1), A McKay, A Forker; C Mackin (0-1), G McCabe (0-1, m), J Morgan (0-2, 0-1m); J Og Burns, S McPartlan; J Duffy, B McCambridge, R Grugan (0-2f); A Murnin, R O’Neill (0-06, 0- 3f, 0-1 ’45), C Turbitt Subs: S Campbell (0-2) for Grugan (44), A Nugent for McPartlan (44), R McQuillan (0-1) for McCambridge (58), O Conaty for Murnin (63), Grugan for Duffy (69), C Cumiskey for Forker (71), Connaire Mackin for Ciaran Mackin (77)
Ref: D Gough (Meath).
Dublin 5-21; Louth 0-15
This was the 13th year in a row when Dublin has totally dominated Leinster and their 21-point winning margin shows the gulf in class between the capital and the rest in the eastern province.
The depressing thing is there is little likelihood of any team closing the gap though there may be some hope in Kildare following a good semi-final showing on top of their U-20 All Ireland success.
But that is just grasping at straws for truth to tell, Dublin won this game as soon as Paul Mannion flicked home Con O’Callaghan cross goal pass after 20 minutes of play.
Louth had started the better with Sam Mulroy, who ended up with 10 points to his credit, showing up well. But once the likes of O’Callaghan, Jack McCaffrey (who had to go off injured after scoring two points mid-way through the first half) and the other Dub old hands got into their strike, they scored 1-9 without reply to end the game as a contest. True, Louth rallied before the break to score three points on the trot but by then Dublin were nine points ahead and the only question remaining to be answered was - what would the finishing margin of victory be?
Manager Dessie Farrell will be delighted with his charges and the fact that the Man of the Match was Sean Bugler, one of the new crop in his squad, will also be a plus factor. He showed up well at centre-forward scoring early points from play and his goal was a gem begun by and finished by his own excellent play and athleticism.
After Mannion, James McCarthy showed great coolness to wrong-foot the entire defense with his left-footed goal while late scores from replacements Paddy Small and Colm Basquel showed what the Dubs are still capable of doing when in the mood.
Farrell will be happy with this win as it means they play in Group 3 of the Sam Maguire series, beginning with a game in Croke Park against Roscommon before meeting the minnows of Kildare and Sligo.
For Louth who now enter Group 1 as losing Leinster finalists, they will face a make or break first game against Cork before two tough games against Mayo and Kerry..
Dublin: S Cluxton; D Newcombe, D Byrne, L Gannon; B Howard, J Small (0-1), J McCaffrey (0-2); B Fenton, J McCarthy (1-0); N Scully, S Bugler (1-3), C Kilkenny (0-3); P Mannion (1-1, 0-1f), C O'Callaghan (0-4, 0-1m), C Costello (0-5, 0-3f, 0-1 45) Subs: C Murphy for McCaffrey inj. 32, P Small (1-0) for Scully 52, D Rock (0-1) for Costello 52, C Basquel (1-0) for Mannion 59, S MacMahon (0-1) for Howard 63.
Louth: J Califf; D Corcoran, P Lynch, D McKenny; L Grey, N Sharkey, C Murphy; T Durnin, C Early; C McKeever, S Mulroy (0-10, 0-7f, 0-1 45), C Grimes (0-2); D McConnon, C Downey (0-1), L Jackson (0-01) Subs: C Lennon (0-1) for McConnon 26, A Williams for Murphy 31, C McCaul for Jackson 40, PMatthews for Early 55, R Burns for Corcoran 68.
Clare 2-22; Waterford 0-16
Oh Waterford, what is going on? Two defeats already, they needed to bring their A game to Semple Stadium on Saturday evening. Instead they pressed the self-destruct button as Calum Lyons’s second yellow card just after the half-hour spelt the end of this Munster Hurling Championship as Clare thereafter eased to a 12-point win without really breaking sweat.
With a win against All Ireland champions Limerick in their previous outing and with the Davy Fitz vs Brian Lohan Enmity on the line well-known, we were expecting fireworks as the Deise sought to save their season.
Instead we got a damp squib as the losers only managed to score half a dozen points in the second half, the same total they managed from play over the entire 70 minutes.
So in short, they got what they deserved — nothing.
We found out little about Clare in this game but they are top of the heap and looking good to at least challenge for major honors this season with Tony Kelly taking over the free taking in the absence of injured Aidan McCarthy and effortlessly scoring 0-13. There was a big moment too from Cathal Malone’s whose goal in front of 14,320 fans was the beginning of the end of the Deise journey.
This means that they have now lost six championship game on the trot while Lohan most definitely has the upper-hand on his old teammate as he eliminated a team managed by Fitzgerald for the third time in four years.
Waterford are a mess and the radar has gone awry with less than half of their chances converted while there was a glaring goal miss from the once imperious Jamie Barron to add to their tale of woe.
CLARE: É Quilligan; A Hogan, C Cleary, R Hayes; D Ryan (0-2), J Conlon, D McInerney; D Fitzgerald, C Malone (1-1); P Duggan, T Kelly (0-13, 0-8f, 0-1 65), I Galvin (1-1); R Taylor (0-1), S O’Donnell (0-2), M Rodgers. Subs: S Meehan (0-1) for Galvin (52), P Flanagan for McInerney (54), S Morey for Hayes (60), R Mounsey (0-1) for Rodgers (62), A Shanagher for Ryan (64).
WATERFORD: B Nolan; C Gleeson, C Prunty, I Daly; M Fitzgerald, C Lyons, J Fagan; J Barron (0-1), D Lyons; P Hogan (0-1), J Prendergast, N Montgomery; S Bennett (0-7f), A Gleeson (0-3, 0-2f), D Hutchinson (0-2) Subs: P Fitzgerald for Hogan (51), Pádraig Fitzgerald for A Gleeson (58), P Curran (0-2) for Montgomery (60), P Leavey for Daly (62).
All Ireland U-20 Final
Kildare 1-17; Sligo 0-12
Leinster SF Final
Dublin 5-21; Louth 0-15
Ulster SF Final
Derry 1-15; Armagh 0-18
(Derry win 3-1 on penalties)
Carlow 0-17; Wicklow 1-13
Fermanagh 1-13; Wexford 1-13
Antrim 3-18; Leitrim 2-12
Offaly 2-14; London 0-11
Cavan 2-20; Laois 1-14
Down 2-14; Waterford 1-6
Limerick 2-16; Longford 1-16
Meath 1-19; Tipperary 0-11
Munster SH Round Robin
Clare 2-22; Waterford 0-16