Dr McKenna Cup Round 1
Armagh 2-20 Antrim 2-8
By Shaun Casey
Armagh powered past a helpless Antrim side in the opening round of the McKenna Cup at the Athletic Grounds last night, with a ruthless display finishing in a handsome 12-point victory.
Kieran McGeeney made 12 half time changes with Armagh leading by nine at the interval, but even then, the home side were much the better team on display.
Antrim mixed things up as well and made several changes themselves after the turnaround. Second half substitute Odhran Eastwood took some of the bad look off the scoreline as he added two goals, but the game was well out of reach by the time the greens flags were raised.
In front of a huge crowd of 4,510, the game was arguably over following a two-minute blitz from the home side early in the first half, that yielded a quick-fire 1-2.
Antrim proved difficult to break down in the opening five minutes, often piling 15 bodies behind the ball, but once Armagh got the first score, the floodgates opened.
The home side got just as many players back in their defence when out of possession, but their ability to get a hand in, make physical contact and turn the ball over was the telling difference.
The pace that Armagh moved the ball at caused Antrim serious headaches and Tiernan Kelly, playing his first game in the orange and white since the first round of last year’s championship opened the scoring.
Debutant Shane McPartland doubled Armagh’s lead before a mishit goal effort from Conor Turbitt rolled past Michael Byrne in the Antrim net and fired the hosts five ahead.
Colum Duffin got Antrim up and running, pointing a mark after a brilliant pass by ball-playing corner back Paddy McBride. The Saffron’s survived completely on dead ball efforts in the opening half, with all four of their scores coming from frees and marks.
Eoghan Woods, Conor O’Neill, Aidan Nugent (two frees) and Turbitt all added scores before Antrim knocked over their second through Dominic McEnhill. Turbitt grabbed a second from a mark, collecting a long-range pass from club teammate Kelly.
Jarly Og Burns could have added to the growing margin as he powered through the Antrim defence, but his weak effort was easily diverted by Byrne. Nugent and Ryan Murray traded frees while Niall McConville (mark) brought the scoring to an end of the opening half, Armagh ahead 1-10 to 0-4.
McEnhill and Barry McCambridge exchanged efforts at the start of the second period while Justin Kieran and Crossmaglen sharpshooter Cian McConville added their names to the scoresheet.
Joe Sheridan rattled the net in the next play for the Orchard County, but Antrim replied almost immediately with a goal of their own. Odhran Eastwood palmed the ball home with virtually his first touch after coming in, marking Antrim’s first score from play.
Cian McConville cancelled out scores by Dermot McAleese and McEnhill while Jemar Hall did likewise with Antrim’s top scorer. Madden duo Joe Sheridan and Niall Smith fisted scores before Eastwood rattled the net for a second time.
Superb scores from Niall McConville, reintroduced for his namesake Cian who went off with a slight knock, and Stefan Campbell left 12 the difference at the end. Antrim face Cavan in the second round on Sunday, while the Orchard County travel to Breffni Park for the final group stage game next Wednesday night.
Armagh: Conor Turbitt 1-2 (1m), Joe Sheridan 1-1, Aidan Nugent 0-3 (3f), Cian McConville 0-3, Niall McConville 0-2 (1m), Tiernan Kelly 0-1, Shane McPartland 0-1, Eoin Woods 0-1, Conor O’Neill 0-1, Barry McCambridge 0-1, Jemar Hall 0-1, Niall Smith 0-1, Justin Kieran 0-1, Stefan Campbell 0-1.
Antrim: Odhran Eastwood 2-0, Dominic McEnhill 0-5 (4f, 1m), Colum Duffin 0-1 (1m), Ryan Murray 0-1 (1m), Dermot McAleese 0-1.
Armagh: Ethan Rafferty, Paddy Burns, Aidan Forker, Ross Finn, Conor O’Neill, Barry McCambridge, Jarly Og Burns, Niall Grimley, Stephen Sheridan, Eoin Woods, Aidan Nugent, Tiernan Kelly, Conor Turbitt, Niall McConville, Shane McPartland.
Subs: Stefan Campbell for C. Turbitt, Justin Kieran for T. Kelly, Niall Smith for C. O’Neill, Callum Cumiskey for J. Burns, Tomas McCormack for N. Grimley, Shea Magill for E. Rafferty, Lee Rice for P. Burns, Peter McGrane for A. Forker, Ciaran Higgins for S. Sheridan, Joe Sheridan for E. Woods, Jemar Hall for A. Nugent, Cian McConville for R. Finn, Conor Grimley for N. McConville, Kieran Doyle for B. McCambridge, Oisin Conaty for S. McPartland, Niall McConville for C. McConville.
Antrim: Michael Byrne, Patrick McBride, Cathal Hynds, Pádraig Mervyn, Dermot McAleese, Joseph Finnegan, Ronan Boyle, Jack Dowling, Oisin Lenehan, Marc Jordan, Colum Duffin, Conor Stewart, Ryan Murray, Kevin Small, Dominic McEnhill.
Subs: Eoghan McCabe for R. Boyle, Patrick Finnegan for M. Jordan, Seamus McGarry for J. Dowling, Pat Shivers for J. Finnegan, James McAuley for P. Mervyn, Odhran Eastwood for K. Small, Barry McCormick for R. Murray, Patrick McCormick for D. McAleese, Calum Higgins for C. Duffin, Sean O’Neill for C. Stewart, Conall McGirr for C. Hynds, Ronan Hanna for M. Byrne.