Ulster Senior Football Championship Final
Derry 1-15 Armagh 0-18 AET
(Derry win 3-1 on penalties)
Derry are back-to-back Ulster Senior Football champions following a thrilling decider, which eventually was decided on penalties.
It was nervy and exciting with Derry prevailing as Ciaran McFaul scored the winning penalty. Three heroic saves from goalkeeper Odhran Lynch also helped to give the Oak Leafers a crucial victory. So it was yet another cruel penalty shootout defeat for Armagh, who seemed to be getting on top of the game at the right time late on.
Clones was bouncing and the game lived up to the hype. It was a cagey first half, but Armagh forced the game to open up in the second half and had the chance to win it at the death, but Rory Grugan’s free dropped short.
Man of the Match Brendan Rogers, who scored 1-2 from play, was on the sideline for the start of extra time having picked up a black card and Armagh took advantage with Ross McQuillan putting the Orchard men ahead for the first time.
In a match of fine margins, Stefan Campbell put two points between the teams and all the energy seem to be with Armagh.
However, this Derry don’t know how to quit and with Shane McGuigan on fire Derry got back into the game and took the lead before Rian O’Neill forced the game to a penalty shoot-out.
It was then that Lynch saved from Rian O’Neill, Aidan Nugent and Ethan Rafferty, while Derry’s McGuigan, Conor Glass and McFaul converted to clinch Ulster glory.
It was pressure cooker atmosphere that intensified as the afternoon went on and a packed St Tiernach’s Park provided the perfect backdrop.
Despite Derry’s dominance they only led by a point at half-time (1-5 to 0-7), with Rogers bagging his goal as early as the sixth minute, which left Armagh chasing and each time they got close, Derry had a reply.
Rian O’Neill, Greg McCabe, the impressive Jarly Og Burns and Rory Grugan grabbed Armagh’s first half scores, while McGuigan, Rogers, Niall Toner and Gareth McKinless were on target for Derry.
Both teams pressed up on kick-outs for the second half and Niall Loughlin, Toner, McGuigan and Glass kept Derry in front. Rafferty struck two big points and the industrious O’Neill kept Armagh in touch and he levelled the score for the first time. Grugan had a 40-metre mark to win all in the closing minutes, but his effort dropped short.
McQuillan gave Armagh the lead as they were playing with greater intensity and much more energy while Derry were without Rogers briefly.
Jarly Og Burns fisted over the bar to put Armagh ahead again going into the second period of extra-time, before Stefan Campbell put two points between the teams.
The Armagh fans were energised and but McGuigan’s high and over and Toner’s free had the sides level and then Lachlan Murray looked to have grabbed a dramatic winner which had the Derry support in fine voice.
But in a game in plenty of twists and turns there was still another card to play. Again it was a free for Armagh, which O’Neill coolly steered over in the 91st minute to send the game to penalties. Lynch was the hero with three vital saves.
Scorers for Derry: Shane McGuigan 0-7 (2fs), Brendan Rogers 1-2, Niall Toner 0-2 (2fs), Gareth McKinless, Conor Glass, Niall Loughlin, and Lachlan Murray 0-1 each.
Scorers for Armagh: Rian O’Neill 0-6 (3fs, 145), Ethan Rafferty, Stefan Campbell, Jarly Óg Burns (1m), and Rory Grugan (2fs) 0-2 each, Conor O’Neill, Ross McQuillan, Ciaran Mackin, and Greg McCabe (m) 0-1 each.
Derry: Odhran Lynch, Christopher McKaigue, Eoin McEvoy, Conor McCluskey, Conor Doherty, Gareth McKinless, Padraig McGrogan, Conor Glass, Brendan Rogers, Benny Heron, Paul Cassidy, Ethan Doherty, Niall Toner, Shane McGuigan, Niall Loughlin.
Subs: Ciaran McFaul for Herron (47’), Lachlan Murray for Loughlin (60’), Padraig Cassidy for C Doherty (62’), Herron for Murray (71’), C Doherty for Loughlin (71’), Lachlan Murray for Herron (83’).
Armagh: Ethan Rafferty, Conor O’Neill, Aaron McKay, Aidan Forker, Ciaran Mackin, Greg McCabe, Jarly Og Burns, James Morgan, Shane McPartlan, Jason Duffy, Barry McCambridge, Rory Grugan, Andrew Murnin, Rian O’Neill, Conor Turbitt.
Subs : Stefan Campbell or Grugan (44’), Aidan Nugent for McPartlan (44’), Ross McQuillan for McCambridge (58), Oisin Conaty for Murnin (62’), Rory Grugan for Duffy (70’), Callum Cumiskey for Forker (71), Connaire Mackin for Ciaran Mackin (76’).
Referee: David Gough (Meath).