Wins for Tyrone, Donegal and Down confirm Dr McKenna Cup semi-finals
DR MCKENNA CUP RESULTS
Armagh 3-15 Tyrone 3-18
Derry 0-8 Donegal 1-10
Down 2-17 Antrim 0-15
The Dr McKenna Cup semi-final line-up has been finalised as the final round of the competition was played out across Ulster tonight.
Tyrone topped group C with a thrilling three-point win over Armagh, and they will take on Down following their victory over Antrim by seven points in Páirc Esler.
Meanwhile, Donegal progressed with a 1-10 to 0-8 win over Derry, and they'll take on fellow Section A side Monaghan, who go through as best placed runner-up.
The Farney were not in action tonight, but Armagh's losing margin of three meant the would miss out on the last semi-final slot on score difference by just one point.
At the Athletic Grounds, 5,125 spectators were treated to an early January game played at a bristling Championship level of intensity. Six goals and 33 points were spread across 73 minutes of enthralling football on an evening of action that didn't disappoint.
Tyrone held sway in a frantic first half, with points from Kyle Coney and Michel McKernan edging Mickey Harte's men ahead by the 14th minute before Ronan O'Neill marked his return to the Tyrone setup with a well taken goal following terrific work from Niall Sludden.
Armagh responded right away, with Rian O'Neill executing some fine scores from both play and frees, and Stefan Campbell also on target. However in the 27th minute, a glaring kick-out error from Niall Brady gifted O'Neill an empty goal to lob the ball into the net, and an immediate point from Ronan McHugh had Tyrone firmly in command at 2-8 to 0-6.
Armagh would get their own slice of good fortune before halftime though when a long range Rian O'Neill free slipped through the hands of Ben McDonnell on the line and the green flag was raised, reducing the Red Hands' lead by four at the break.
The relentless pace of the game continued in the second period. Oisin O'Neill and Rory Grugan got the first two points for Armagh before Sludden replenished Tyrone's lead with a goal. Tyrone then threatened to break away with a series of scores from Darren McCurry and Ronan O'Neill, but back again came Armagh who kept in touch when Stefan Campbell confidently dispatched a penalty in the 43rd minute.
Both teams went back and forth with scores coming often, and Tyrone were keeping Armagh at an arm's length until substitute Rory Grugan shimmied his way past a few tackles to smash the ball past Niall Morgan in the Tyrone goal with five minutes to go.
That put just two between the sides, but a phenomenal point in the closing stages by McCurry extended that margin to three at the final whistle, and cemented Armagh's exit from the competition.
While it was a score-fest in Armagh, the same couldn't be said for proceedings at Celtic Park, where Donegal overcame Derry by five points in an uninspiring affair. The score stood at a paltry 0-4 to 0-2 at halftime, with Peadar Mogan kicking two for the Tir Chonaill county.
After the break things improved marginally, with Michael Langan on target for the visitors, and Ryan Bell supplying the majority of Derry's scores. A Caolan Ward goal put Donegal 1-9 to 0-4 up, and while Derry pulled themselves closer towards the end, the win for Declan Bonner's men was never in jeopardy.
In Newry, home side Down were always in control against Antrim and opened up a commanding lead early on that they would maintain to the end. Barry O'Hagan and Corey Quinn scored goals, and points from Jonny Flynn and Quinn helped the Mourne County open up a seven point gap by the break, with Ruairi McCann providing scores for Antrim.
In the second half Down picked up where they left off with Darren O'Hagan landing a couple of scores, and while Antrim chipped away at the gap through Patrick McBride, Paddy Tally's men were full value for their eight-point win.