Pearse Og survive late Cullyhanna fightback to claim place in Armagh Championship quarter-finals
Cormac Leonard Armagh Senior Football Championship: Pearse Og 1-11 St Patrick's Cullyhanna 0-12
From Andy Watters at The Athletic Grounds
THE absence of Armagh star Aidan Nugent – ruled out for the season with a cruciate ligament injury - had a huge bearing on last night's slow-burner in the Cathedral City.
Without Nugent's finishing power, Cullyhanna wasted a dozen precious scoring chances and, although their shooting wasn't much better, Pearse Og purple patches at the end of the first half and the start of the second – including a brilliant Anto Duffy goal – meant they progressed to the quarter-final stage.
After trailing 0-4 to 0-3 thanks to a touch of inter-county class from Jason Duffy that edged Cullyhanna ahead, the Ogs returned to the stand (changingrooms remain closed obviously) leading 0-7 to 0-4 following points from Justin Graham, James Freeman, an Anto Duffy mark (after a terrific catch) and a Paul Duffy free.
And they continued from where they'd left off when the second half began.
Their three man full-forward line, pushed right up on Cullyhanna goalkeeper Kieran Gordon, broke out in unison looking for a pass from midfield and when it came the impressive Freeman grabbed it and released Paul Duffy who tore into the space they had left.
Duffy, who retains the pace that earned him a place in Armagh's team a few years ago, had time to pick out brother Anto at the far post. The mobile full-forward took a touch before smashing a drive past Gordon to give his side a 1-8 to 0-5 lead.
After two more points for the Ogs and black cards for Aodhan Conlon and Kieran Hoey a rout looked a real possibility but to their credit Cullyhanna hung in there. With Nugent missing, championship debutant Caolan Reavey stepped up and three points in-a-row from him kept his side's hopes alive. At the other end, the Duffy-Freeman partnership conjured up another score for the Ogs but two fine scores from Cullyhanna's Duffy left four in it with five points left.
And as the pressure mounted, Pearse Og's discipline began to falter.
Conor Toner was shown a black card and Sean Sutton a red as the seconds ticked away and Aodhan Conlan had half-a-chance of leaving just one in it when he broke through on the right. His shot skimmed over the cross bar though and despite Phelim McArdle's late effort, the Ogs survived and go on to meet Madden at the quarter-final stage on Saturday evening.
On yesterday's evidence, Pearse Og manager Shane McConville doesn't expect the Raparees (who beat last year's finalists Ballymacnab last Saturday) to be quaking in their boots.
“I wouldn't be happy with that performance at all,” he said.
“You could have run a bus through the middle of us and you can be sure of one thing – Madden won't be fearing us on that performance.”
The productive spells either side of the interval showed a glimpse of what McConville's men are capable of. He wants to see a lot more of that next time out.
“We have work to do, it'll be a busy week getting them gathered again but there's plenty to play for,” he added.
“It's not doom and gloom but, from a management end of things you have to seek improvements and look at the negatives as well as the positives. That's what we'll do next week and hopefully we'll get it right.
“There's more in the tank, a lot more.”
Meanwhile, Cullyhanna manager Stephen Reel felt, with some justification, that another five minutes would have given his men time to get out of jail.
“The goal was a big score there,” he said.
“We were going fairly well but they finished the first half really, really strong. But that's football, we had a lot of boys making their debut and this will have been a great learning experience for them. We finished the game strong but we ran out of time really.
“If it had gone on another three or four minutes we would probably have won it.”
Pearse Og: R Kearney; S Sutton, G Barton, L Gilsenan; S Freeman, V Brady (0-2, 0-1 45), C McNicholl; C Rafferty, A Duffy (1-1, 0-1 mark); J Graham (0-2 frees), P Duffy (0-1 free), C Murray; J Freeman (0-4, 0-1 free), C Clarke, N Boyle (0-1)
Subs: C Toner for Graham (36), J Duffy for Clarke (56)
Yellow card: N Boyle (45)
Black card: C Toner (49)
Red card: S Sutton (56)
St Patrick's Cullyhanna: K Gordon; J Quinn, F O'Rourke, S Og Irwin; P McArdle (0-1), D Brecknell, J Duffy (0-4); B McConville, P Savage; A Conlon (0-2), S Hoey (0-2, 0-1 free), D Conlon; C Reavey (0-3, 0-1 free), P Conlon, M Mackin
Subs: K Hoey for P Conlon (30), J Carragher for Gordon (36), G Mackin for Brecknell (45)
Black cards: A Conlon (39), K Hoey (42)
Referee: P Hughes