After the two-week Easter break this was always going to be an interesting battle. Armagh, like Derry have been showing good form in this year’s competition, only suffered one defeat losing to Down by four points.
Armagh won the toss and opted to play with the breeze, but decided to drop an extra man back between their midfield and half-back line.
This played into Oakleafers’ hands, with the Derry defence well on top over the hour with all six defenders winning their battles.
This defensive rock was the foundation for a quick attack on the score board. Kevin Lynch’s playmaker Darragh McGilligan had Derry two up after four minutes and this was quickly followed by point from Slaughtneil’s Shea Cassidy.
Darragh and Shea traded points again before Ballinascreen’s Lee Colville scored a brilliant individual effort after flicking the sliotar over two opponents’ heads and striking the ball over the bar from 45 yards.
“Lee Colville scored a brilliant individual effort after flicking the sliotar over two opponents’ heads."
It was the McGonigle and O’Hagan show in defence and the McGilligan and Cassidy show up front with both adding to their tally again.
Eoin McCallion was having a stormer at midfield and along with Jack Cassidy and Callum O’Kane they were spraying good ball to the inside forwards.
Nelis’ work rate at centre half forward was rewarded after chasing down a short puck out from the Armagh goalkeeper McCann he blocked down the Armagh defender and sent the ball between the uprights.
Derry didn’t give Armagh any time on the ball and only conceded two shots in the opening 20 minutes before the Armagh full-forward hit their first score in the 23th minute.
The final act of the half was worked straight from goalkeeper Passmore through the lines to midfield. A long ball and a bit of nifty footwork from Shea Cassidy found him through on goal but the first of a number of saves from McCann kept the Derry attack at bay.
Derry started the second-half where they left off with wing forward Jack Conway scoring from 60 yards. This was followed up with 65 from McGilligan. Armagh weren’t going away and hit two points from play.
Niall McGonigle took a slight hamstring injury into the game was cautiously replaced by Na Magha’s Aaaron Campbell.
Derry kept the scoreboard ticking over with points from Cassidy and Colville. A bizarre mix up of communication and divisiveness from the resulting puck-out was quickly pounced on the Orchard men dispatched the ball into the bottom corner of the Derry net.
The Derry management then introduced six replacements over the next four minutes and to counteract the Armagh goal.
They had a number of shots which were narrowly off-target.
It paid off when Lavey’s Oisin Madden latched onto a breaking ball in the Armagh square and pulled the ball to the net.
The final act of the game was a consolation bonus point goal by Armagh.
Derry had a number of players in contention for the ‘Best and fairest’ award with Ballinascreen full-back Aodhan O’Hagan gaining the accolade along with Armagh net minder McCann.
Derry now go into the final game in Ballinascreen (12.00) against Antrim on Sunday 5th May, after which they will take a break for the exam period before returning to action for the graded quarter-final stages.
Derry: Leo Passmore, Karl McGilligan, Aodhan O'Hagan, Mark McEldowney, Callum O'Kane, Niall McGonigle, Jack Cassidy, Eóin McCallion, Darragh McGilligan (0-5, 1f), Jack Conway (0-1), Padhraig Nelis (0-2), Aidan Cutliffe, Kosta Papachristopolous, Lee Colville (0-2), Shéa Cassidy (0-4).
Subs: Aaron Campbell, Micheál Murray, Eoghan Quinn, Thomas McKeagney, Oisin Madden (1-0), Keelan O’Kane, Fearghal McGahon.
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