Late rally sees Maghery edge dramatic Armagh SFC quarter-final against Ballymacnab

Aidan Forker came back off the bench for Maghery to grab a vital score in his side's Armagh SFC win over Ballymacnab
Aidan Forker came back off the bench for Maghery to grab a vital score in his side's Armagh SFC win over Ballymacnab

Cormac Leonard Armagh SFC quarter-final: Maghery 0-15 Ballymacnab 0-14 (aet)

MAGHERY edged a dramatic quarter-final against Ballymacnab at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday evening with one-point the difference in the end.

Stefan Forker slotted over the game winning final score, but some heroic defending kept the loughshore men in this championship.

Twice they blocked down Ballymacnab’s attempted equalisers and the aid of the post also came to their rescue near the end of the game.

The 'Nab led by three with five minutes left of normal time, but Maghery powered back with three on the trot through Oisin Cushnahan, Aidan Forker and Gerard Campbell to force extra-time

Forker limped off the field eight minutes into the game with a hamstring injury but returned for the second half at full-forward.

“Aidan was a huge concern,” admitted Maghery coach Paul Coney.

“It was a severe blow to the lads on the pitch so we were thinking if we could just hang in to half time and try and get things sort again and lucky enough, we did.

“We went two down which wasn’t too bad considering we hadn’t played overly well, and I know Ballymacnab will say the same, that they didn’t convert the chances that they had.

“It allowed us to get in at half time and then obviously we realised Aidan was able to come back on and that was a huge boost again. Aidan being Aidan, he didn’t want to go out with a whimper.”

Forker wasn’t the only casualty. Ciaran Higgins (hamstring) and David Lavery (shoulder) both left the field injured, as did Brendan Haveron, who came back on, and Stephen Cusack.

A few long-range Kieran Hughes scores put the 'Nab ahead during a cagey opening quarter while Hughes’s third and a Rory Grugan free put Barry Dillon’s men 6-4 up at the break.

Scores from Stefan Forker and Oisin Cushnahan (free) got Maghery back on level terms before Ballymacnab opened up a three-point lead through Grugan, Hughes and Oisin McGivern, the largest margin of the game.

But Maghery clawed their way back into contention and were even reduced to 14 men when Kevin Robinson received his marching orders, but it made no bearing on the game as extra-time ensued.

Rory Grugan traded scores with the Forker brothers Aidan and Stefan to leave the score level at the interval, 0-13 apiece. Cushnahan swapped scores with Grugan as Stefan Forker fired over the final score to secure his sides spot in the last four of the championship.

Maghery have done it the hard way, seeing off Division 1A league winners Armagh Harps in the opening round before battling past Division 1B champions Ballymacnab.

“It hasn’t been easy and we’re probably expecting the same again (in the semi-finals),” added Coney.

“I don’t think it matters who we get and I’m sure there’s probably teams out there who don’t want us either, but we’ll savour tonight and try and get the heads right again for the next round.”

Ballymacnab: C Kerr; N Cosgrove D McParland, C Connolly; J Gray, R Kennedy, N McKee; R Grugan (0-6 frees), P Gribben, P Meegan, G McParland (0-1), R Watters, K Hughes (0-4), J Grugan (0-2), O McGivern (0-1). Subs: P Hughes for G McParland, M Beagan for J Gray, S King for K Hughes, R Gribben for C Connolly, G McParland for O McGivern.

Maghery: E Cusack; B Haveron, O Lappin, E Scullion; C Higgins, A Forker (0-2), D Lavery; B Crealey, R Lappin; S Forker (0-4, 0-1 free), B Fox, O Cushnahan (0-4, 0-3 frees); K Robinson (0-3, 0-2 frees), B McIlmurray, S Cusack 0-1. Subs: M Mackle for A Forker, G Campbell (0-1) for D Lavery, A Forker for M Mackle, M Brannagh for B Haveron, K Nugent for E Scullion, J Mackle for R Lappin, B Haveron for S Cusack