Allianz FL D3: Armagh edge out Antrim
Allianz Football League Division 3
ARMAGH 1-12 ANTRIM 0-13
By Orla Bannon at the Athletic Grounds
Armagh moved top of Division Three of the Allianz Football League as a late penalty miss pushed Antrim into relegation trouble after a bad-tempered finish in the Athletic Grounds.
CJ McGourty's 63rd minute penalty was saved by Armagh goalkeeper Blaine Hughes, when a goal might have earned the saffrons a draw in a closely-fought game.
The game descended into farce in injury-time with Armagh finishing with 14 players and Antrim with 13.
There were three straight red cards in injury-time for Conor Murray (Antrim), Stephen Sheridan (Armagh) and Stephen Beatty (Antrim).
Armagh came into the game having put 3-15 past Louth six days earlier, but they had serious problems in front of goal in the first half.
Despite having most of the play, they were so wasteful with 11 wides and four other shots dropping short.
Main threats Jamie Clarke and Stefan Campbell were curtailed by a well-drilled Antrim defence and others took wayward pot shots, often under no pressure.
CJ McGourty's free and '45' and a great point from wing-back Paddy McBride had Antrim 0-3 to 0-1 ahead after 13 minutes.
Armagh responded with Ciaran McKeever, playing an unusual role at full-forward, finding the net two minutes later.
A great interchange from the Armagh forwards left Campbell passing across to the unmarked McKeever, who easily fisted the ball into an empty net.
The more Armagh missed with poor decision-making at times, the more Antrim grew in confidence and McGourty continued to convert dead ball chances.
The excellent McBride got forward for his second point – the defender scoring both of Antrim's points from play in the first half – before McKeever slotted over from an acute angle to leave it 1-3 to 0-6 at the break.
The sides were level three more times in the third quarter as Antrim gamely stayed in the game with Conor Murray landing a good score.
McKeever was involved in numerous Armagh attacks from his new full-forward role, while fullback Charlie Vernon showed great leadership, coming up from defence with two long-range points in three minutes to swing the game Armagh's way.
Aidan Forker, Jamie Clarke and Anto Duffy all scored as Armagh put clear daylight between the sides for the first time.
CJ McGourty's missed penalty was a huge moment. After Conor Murray was upended, McGourty stepped up but Armagh 'keeper Blaine Hughes guessed correctly and dived to his right to push the shot round the post.
Both sides lost their discipline in a bad-tempered finish. Aidan Forker was black-carded before a chaotic final few minutes with three straight red cards in injury-time.
Scorers for Armagh – Ciaran McKeever 1-1, Gavin McParland 0-2, Charlie Vernon 0-2, Niall Grimley 0-1, Aaron McKay 0-1, Rory Grugan 0-1, Aidan Forker 0-1, Jamie Clarke 0-1, Anto Duffy 0-1, Stephen Sheridan 0-1
Scorers for Antrim – CJ McGourty 0-9 (6f, one '45'), Paddy McBride 0-2, Conor Murray 0-1, Brendan Bradley 0-1
ARMAGH: Blaine Hughes; James Morgan, Charlie Vernon, Paul Hughes; Niall Rowland, Brendan Donaghy, Aaron McKay; Stephen Sheridan, Ben Crealey; Niall Grimley, Ciaran McKeever, Rory Grugan; Gavin McParland, Stefan Campbell, Jamie Clarke
Subs: Aidan Forker for Crealey (33), Ciaran O'Hanlon for Grimley (42), Anto Duffy for Campbell (50), Oisin O'Neill for McKeever (55), Shea Heffron for Rowland (61), Aaron Findon for Forker (BC, 68)
ANTRIM: Chris Kerr; Conor Hamill, Patrick Gallagher, Peter Healy; Paddy McBride, Declan Lynch, Paddy McAleer; Jack Dowling, Kevin Niblock; Stephen Beatty, Ruairi McCann, Matthew Fitzpatrick; CJ McGourty, Conor Murray, Brendan Bradley
Subs: Niall Delargy for McCann (45), Sean McVeigh for Dowling (47), Conor Small for Lynch (70)
REFEREE: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh)