Clan na Gael complete redemption mission with Killeavy win

Clan na Gael's Sean Mackle celebrates after rattling the Killeavy net in the second half at the Athletic Grounds on Sunday
Clan na Gael's Sean Mackle celebrates after rattling the Killeavy net in the second half at the Athletic Grounds on Sunday

Cormac Leonard Commercials Armagh SFC quarter-final: Killeavy 0-7 Clan na Gael 1-9

A YEAR after being dumped out of the championship at the same stage by Killeavy, it wasn’t hard to tell what this one meant as Clan na Gael sealed their semi-final spot at the Athletic Grounds on Sunday.

High fives that must have stung the palms after 70 odd minutes of slugging it out in the wind and rain, bear hugs, roars, yells – this wasn’t so much revenge as redemption for one they felt got away at Pearse Og Park, 12 months of hurt stored up, frustration finally released.

County stars Shane McPartlan and Stefan Campbell led from the front before Sean Mackle’s second half goal left little doubt, the intensity with which the boys in blue set about their task having come as a shock to the Killeavy system.

A huge wind at their backs helped of course, but when Tommy Coleman’s men – already three points down - lost Cathal Boylan to a straight red card for striking McPartlan 12 minutes in, the writing appeared to be on the wall.

Clan na Gael led 0-7 to nothing at half-time, a lead that would have been stretched out further had it not been for a superb block from Conor Magennis to deny Campbell a goal at the cost of a point.

Conditions played a major part too, players slipping and sliding across the sodden turf, but the south Armagh men didn’t trouble the scoreboard until the 38th minute, their first point from play arriving 10 minutes from the end.

And yet the early signs were promising for Killeavy. Three minutes in they carved open a gilt-edged goal chance when Paul Quinn peeled off to pick up Callum O’Hare’s diagonal ball into the square, before laying into the path of the onrushing Michael McNamee.

Just as he looked set to fire home, however, McNamee didn’t scuffed his shot along the wet surface, allowing ’keeper Ryan Conway to gather possession and set the Clans on the front foot.

Within seconds, the ball was up the other end, the pacey Callum O’Neill granted too much space before splitting the posts.

A minute later Stefan Campbell signalled his intent by shimmying away from Cathair McKinney before firing over from distance. Chest out, demanding the ball, confident that everything he touched could turn to gold - on days like these, few within Armagh, few within Ulster, are tougher to contain.

He could have added a goal with just 10 minutes on the clock too as then Clans threatened to run riot, the brilliant McPartlan bursting forward and finding Campbell in the square, his lofted finish looking bound for the top corner until Magennis somehow diverted it up and over the bar.

McPartlan picked himself up following Boylan’s dismissal to dominate the remainder of the half, lording the skies and forcing Killeavy onto the back foot. After curling over a free, he slotted over another from range to put the Lurgan men six up before a classy Campbell free completed the first half scoring.

“I probably felt at half-time we weren’t far enough ahead – I was really worried about that,” admitted Clan na Gael manager Ronan McMahon.

“We had a couple of chances for goals and didn’t take them, so I was expecting an onslaught from Killeavy, but I was very impressed with our first quarter in the second half because it kind of slowed it down.

“Thankfully it worked for us.”

Ronan McMahon's Clan na Gael have moved into the last four of the Armagh SFC
Ronan McMahon's Clan na Gael have moved into the last four of the Armagh SFC

As anticipated, Killeavy went for an aerial assault in a bid to claw something back early in the second half, only for the wind to send ball after ball scooting out over the end line. Even when it did drop where it was intended, the Clan na Gael rearguard remained cool under pressure to keep trouble at bay.

A couple of Ronan McGuinness scores offered brief respite before Clan na Gael, having passed up a golden goalscoring chance a minute earlier when Magill denied substitute Cian France, suck the wind from Killeavy sails, Mackle roaming forward and lashing to the net.

Game, set and match, with the Clans passing up opportunities for further goals as Killeavy’s 14 men left acres of space behind as they pushed up in an attempt to force anything that might offer a glimmer of hope.

By then, though, the damage had long been done.

It was fitting that the brilliant McPartlan curled over the last score of the day from a free to banish the memories of last year’s extra-time exit, Clan na Gael’s gaze now fixed forward as an all-Lurgan date with Clann Eireann looms.

Killeavy: S Magill; C Magennis, C McKinney, D O’Neill; J Cosgrove, C Cosgrove, L Rice, G Murphy; C Boylan, C O’Hare; P Quinn, C O’Hanlon (0-1), C O’Neill (0-2); R McGuinness (0-4, 0-3 frees, 0-1 mark), M McNamee. Subs: R Kearney for Rice (11), C McConville for Quinn (33), O King for J Cosgrove (45), N Magennis for McNamee (47), A Garvey for O’Neill (51)

Yellow cards: C McKinney (60+1)

Red card: C Boylan (12)

Clan na Gael: R Conway; M McConville, J Lavery; A McCreanor; S McClarnon, S Mackle (1-0), J Brady; D O’Hagan S McPartlan (0-3, 0-2 frees); N Loney, N Henderson, C O’Neill (0-1); M Ward, C Campbell, S Campbell (0-4, 0-1 free). Subs: C France (0-1) for Ward (37), M Toland for C Campbell (43), J Austin for Henderson (49), B O’Hagan for Loney (53), P Kelly for Mackle (60+6)

Yellow cards: J Brady (29), C France (38), S Campbell (60+1)

Referee: T O’Hare (Pearse Og)