EirGrid Ulster Under 21 Football Championship Semi-Final
Derry 0-21 Armagh 1-15
Derry progressed to their first Ulster U21 final since 2008 after an epic tussle with Armagh ended in a three point extra-time win at Celtic Park.
Shane McGuigan with six points and Danny Tallon with a whopping eight impressed for the winners, who will meet Donegal in Monday night’s provincial decider.
Armagh were worthy opponents and in Oisin O’Neill they possessed a star man up front whose 1-5 tally, including a last minute equaliser to take the tie to extra-time wasn’t enough to guide the Orchard County home.
An Oisin O’Neill pile-driver minutes from half-time accounted for the only goal of the opening 30 minutes and edged Armagh ahead at half-time at 1-6 to 0-8. The teams were well matched, and when Patrick Kearney opened the scoring for Derry shortly after throw-in the contest, which fizzed with open attacking play, swayed one way and then the next throughout the half.
Points from Peter Hagan and Danny Tallon saw Derry draw first blood at 0-3 to a point before the Orchard men returned fire through Caolan McConville and two Shea Loye frees to take the lead for the first time in the 12th minute.
Derry responded. Free-takers Shane McGuigan and Danny Tallon nailed their shots as the home side began to look comfortable at 0-7 to 0-4 up after 22 minutes. But just as Derry hinted at taking control, Peter McDonnell’s men finished the half the strongest with Oisin O’Neill, Armagh’s brightest star, following up a fine point with and even better major.
Back to back Danny Tallon frees returned Derry’s lead shortly after the restart, but four in a row from Armagh, with Oisin O’Neill at times unplayable, handed the visitors a three point lead by the 49th minute.
Once again Derry battled back with McGuigan and Tallon both hitting a quick brace of points to scrape a single point Oakleaf lead in the 59th minute. However, deep into injury that man O’Neill saved Armagh skins and took the game to injury time with a late, late leveller.
Fergal McCusker’s side took the early initiative and raced to a three point lead in the first period of extra-time, but Steven Morris’ final kick of the 10 minutes left Armagh trailing 0-17 to 1-12.
A Tom O’Kane score left Armagh just a point in arrears as the game entered the boiling point mid-way through the second period of extra-time. But Derry were able to find that extra gear when they needed it most and crucial points from Tallon, Peter Hagan and Eamon McGill sealed the win for the home side.
Scorers for Derry: Danny Tallon 0-8 (5fs), Shane McGuigan 0-6 (5fs), Peter Hagan 0-3, Patrick Kearney 0-2, Dean Curran, Eamon McGill 0-1 each.
Scorers for Armagh: Oisin O’Neill 1-5 (2fs), Tom O’Kane, Rian O’Neill (1f), Shea Loye (2fs) 0-2 each, Caolan McConville, Callum O’Neill, Steven Morris 0-1 each.
DERRY: Ben McKinless, Conor McGrogan, Oisin Duffin, Niall Keenan, Cathal Mulholland, Michael McEvoy, Jordan Curran, Patrick Kearney, Jack Doherty, Patrick Coney, Danny Tallon, Peter Hagan, Shane McGuigan, Ruairi McElwee, Conor Doherty.
Subs: Tiernan Flanagan for R McElwee (H/T), Barry Grant for P Coney (HT), Eamon McGill for C Mulholland (44 BC), Dean Curran for B Grant (58), Keelan Feeney for J Curran (ET).
ARMAGH: Ryan Kearney, Phelim McArdle, Aidan Rushe, Caolan McConville, Ciaran Higgins, Barry McCambridge, Callum O’Neill, Ben Creely, Jack Rafferty, Paul Quinn, Oisin O’Neill, Cathal Boylan, Shea Loye, Jason Duffy, Rian O’Neill.
Subs: James McAlinden for P McArdle (39), S Hoey for J Rafferty (39), Ryan Owens for P Quinn (47), Tom O’Kane for S Loye (47), Fergus Quinn for J McAlinden (BC 51), Steven Morris for C Boylan (59), Jarlath Og Burns for B Creely (ET).
REFEREE: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh).