Diarmuid Kelleher scores Leitrim's goal against Armagh in the Nicky Rackard Cup playoff in Kingspan Breffni Park Picture: Adrian Donohue
A goal hungry Armagh side ruthlessly dispelled the challenge of Leitrim in this quarter final of the Nicky Rackard Cup in a sun-drenched Breffni Park on Saturday last, ending the Green & Gold's two year spell in the competition.
The loss means that Leitrim are relegated back to the Lory Meagher Cup for the 2022 season, having defied the odds last year when avoiding relegation with a dramatic victory over Longford.
Relegation completes a difficult transitional year for the county hurlers who failed to win a game in either League or championship.
Despite been down to 14 men for the majority of the contest after Eoin McGuinness received a straight red card in the 15th minute of the first half, the Orchard County still had plenty in reserve to produce a dominant display thus cementing their place in the semi-finals next weekend against Mayo.
Key to Armagh’s win, was the brilliance of corner forward Danny Magee who amassed an eye catching total of 5-2 over the seventy minutes and could have had added two more goals to his tally only to be denied brilliantly in the first half by Leitrim goalkeeper, Lorcan Donnellan.
Leitrim, to their credit, battled gamely throughout and gave their opponents plenty to think about, especially in the second quarter. However, they were ultimately undone towards the end of the first half where Magee raised the green flag twice in two minutes which gave Armagh the platform to dominant the remainder of the contest.
The Orchard County were two points up after five minutes through Fionntan Donnelly (free) and Jim Short before Ben Murray opened up Leitrim’s account in the sixth minute with a fine point from play.
Both sides had early goal chances with Magee been denied by an excellent Donnellan save in the Leitrim goal whereas at the other end, Liam Moreton looked certain to ripple the onion bag only to be intercepted brilliantly by a last ditch tackle by the Armagh full back, Tiarnan Nevin.
Points were traded again through a Donnelly (free) and another excellent Murray score, but Armagh pushed on and points from Magee (2), Eoin McGuinness and Stevie McKearney opened up 0-7 to 0-3 lead by the fifteenth minute of the first half. However, seconds before the whistle was sounded for the water break, Armagh were reduced to 14 men when referee Caymon Flynn gave McGuinness his marching orders for dangerous play.
After the water break concluded, Leitrim restarted the game with intent and after a James McNabola point put three between the sides, the men in green and gold soon levelled where corner forward, Diarmuid Kelleher sprinted towards the Armagh goal and struck a low hard shot to the net.
However, the response from Armagh was swift and two quickfire points from Magee and Odhran Curry pushed them two in front at 0-9 to 1-4, and although Gavin O Hagan replied through a super point from the right wing for Leitrim, Armagh proceeded to finish the half strongly.
Points from Donnelly (3), Curry and Tiarnan O Neill propelled Armagh to a 0-14 to 1-6 lead, with O'Hagan briefly replying with a free. Donnellan put aside his goalkeeping duties to swing over a long range free for Leitrim to cut the gap to four but as the game edged towards half-time, the outcome of the game was more or less decided as Armagh produced two sucker punches in a matter of minutes.
Firstly, Magee took full advantage of some hesitation in the Leitrim defence to fire home after a long-range Artie McGuinness pass caused havoc and the same player added his second moments later with a fine individual effort that gave Donnellan no chance. Moreton and Donnelly swapped points as the half concluded with Armagh firmly in control, leading 2-15 to 1-8 at the interval.
Leitrim began the second half brightly with two O'Hagan frees but Armagh soon settled into their groove and points from Donnelly and Magee had the gap at ten points again at 2-17 to 1-10. However, any subtle hint of a Leitrim comeback was quashed in the ninth and tenth minute, as the ruthless Magee claimed another quickfire brace to claim his third and fourth goals of the contest which effectively sealed the match for Armagh at 4-17 to 1-11.
Although the competitive edge of the game evidently began to peter out, Leitrim briefly rallied with points through Murray, O Hagan (two frees) and Karl McDermott. However, Armagh refused to relent and kept their foot firmly on the accelerator with further goals from Magee, his fifth of the day, and Paddy McBride, saw them 6-19 to 1-15 in front.
Armagh did not stop the onslaught and with ten minutes remaining, man of the match Magee, picked out Peter McKearney with an exquisite pass and the towering midfielder dispatched coolly to the net. As the game entered its closing stages, both teams rang the changes and points from McDermott (2), Paul Lenehan and O Hagan (2) gave Leitrim a respectable tally of 1-21 over the seventy minutes.
However, Armagh were excellent throughout, living up to their pre-game favourites tag despite being down to 14 men, and they closed out the game through points by McKearney (2), Short, McBride and Curry to deservedly seal their place in the semi-finals next weekend.
John West Féile Ambassador and Galway footballer Shane Walsh and Whitehall Colmcille’s Ben Cox at the launch of John West Féile, 2021 at Croke Park. The 2021 John West Féile na nGael hurling and camogie events will take place across individual counties on August 21, whilst The Féile na nÓg football events will take place on August 28. U15 teams will compete for the opportunity to play at Croke Park and Semple Stadium Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Scorers: Gavin O'Hagan 0-11, 10f; Karl McDermott (f) & Ben Murray 0-3 each, 1f; Diarmuid Kelleher 1-0; James McNabola, Liam Moreton, Lorcan Donnellan (f) 0-1 each
Team: Lorcan Donnellan, Paul Early, Stephen Goldrick, Martin Feeney, Ben Murray, Cian Mallon, Cathal O'Donovan, Paul Lenehan, Aaron McDermott, Karl McDermott, Gavin O'Hagan, David McGovern, James McNabola, Liam Moreton, Diarmuid Kelleher. Subs: James Rooney for A. McDermott; Enda Moreton for Mallon; Peter Poniard for McGovern; Conal McGuire for Lenehan; Shane Rynn for Feeney
Scorers: Danny Magee 5-2; Fionntan Donnelly 0-8, 3f; Peter McKearney & Paddy McBride 1-2 each; Tiarnan O’Neill & Odhran Curry 0-3 each; Jim Shortt 0-2; Marty Moan, Eoin McGuinness, Stevie McKearney 0-1 each
Team: Simon Doherty, Liam Woods, Tiarnan Nevin, Reece Magee, Paudie Lappin, Artie McGuiness, Marty Moan, Jim Short, Odhran Curry, Eoin McGuinness (0-1), Paddy McBride, Tiarnan O’Neill , Stevie McKearney, Fionntan Donnelly, Danny Magee. Subs: Ciaran Clifford for Liam Woods; Peter McKearney for S McKearney; Paddy Kelly for R. Magee; Tiarnan O’Hare for Fi. Donnelly; Mark McClatchey for T. O’Neill
Referee: Caymon Flynn
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