Derry defied the odds to emphatically beat Armagh 3-14 to 1-11 and secure a place in their first provincial final since 2000 where they will meet either Donegal or Tyrone.
Armagh, who headed in this game as favourites, had no answer to Derry quick play and were unable to cope with Conleth Gilligan, Mark Lynch and Eoin Bradley who scored all but two of Derry’s points.
Derry started the game at a lightning pace with Bradley’s shot charged down by Brendan Donaghy in the Armagh backline before the aforementioned Bradley opened the scoring with his first of the afternoon from a free.
However the game soon slotted into the tight dual predicted as both sides cancelled each other out for the opening 10 minutes and it was not until that marker that we saw the first point from opening play, Lynch scoring from distance to put Derry 0-03 to 0-02 ahead.
That pattern continued throughout the half with free and yellow cards dominating proceedings and it wasn’t until Lynch netted the opening goal on 30 minutes that Derry, who had been the better team, really began to grab the game by the scruff of the neck.
Lynch added another point before half time before Steven McDonnell scored an injury time free to take his side in the half time break 5 points behind, 1-8 to 0-06 point lead at half time.
Armagh began the second half in scintillating fashion reducing the arrears to 2 points thanks to a goal from Michael O’Rourke however Derry kept their cool and responded with a point from Charles Kielt before Bradley struck with a fine goal, slipping by his marker to slot the ball past Paul Hearty in the Armagh goal to put Derry 7 points ahead.
Paddy O’Rourke sensing the need to change his team around to salvage something from the game introduced David McKenna, Paul Duffy and Brian Mallon in quick succession and the changes revitalised Armagh with the impressive McDonnell and Charlie Vernon scoring quick points.
However two incidents in a matter of minutes changed the pattern of the game, firstly Danny Devlin make a superb save to keep out a McDonnell effort and less than 2 minutes later Gilligan scored a goal and a point to put Derry 3-12 to 1-10 up with 13 minutes to go.
The game was almost up for Armagh and despite scoring a late point through substitute Paul Duffy they couldn’t find a way back into this game and Derry held on to win by 9 points.
John Brennan’s men ended their semi final hoodoo in some style and will take great confidence from the manner of their victory, not to mention the performances of the golden triangle of Lynch, Gilligan and Bradley into final.
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