Clann Eireann move through the gears to reach semi-finals of the Armagh Championship
Armagh Senior Football Championship quarter-final: Clann Eireann 2-10 Silverbridge Harps 1-6
CLANN Eireann showcased slick skills, bench strength and an appetite for a battle as they moved smoothly through the gears to see off a Silverbridge side that battled but ran out of steam and reach the semi-finals where they will meet Lurgan neighbors Clan na Gael.
Midway through the second half it was anyone’s game but – with four points off their bench - the 2021 champions finished strongly to continue their quest for a league and championship double.
After hours of steady rain, a heavy downpour just before throw-in rendered free-flowing football almost impossible in difficult conditions.
The greasy ball changed hands regularly on a heavy pitch as both sides laboured to carve out scoring chances and the first five minutes were scoreless. Jack Reel’s interception from Tiernan Kelly’s pass kept it that way and, predictably, it was Conor Turbitt who broke the deadlock with eight minutes gone.
Silverbridge equalised almost immediately with a free from goal specialist Tiarnan Murphy after Barry McCambridge had fouled Jarly Og Burns.
Clann Eireann kept Turbitt up front but the Harps pulled everyone behind the ball and space was at a premium. A Turbitt shot fell short and Kelly kicked wide while Jamie Martin was also off target for Silverbridge as the first quarter came and went with a score apiece on the board.
That would have suited the underdogs from South Armagh who tried their luck with some route-one football which nearly paid off when Murphy dropped a sideline ball into the square and Peter Carragher got a flick to it. Promising forward Murphy did the same moments later and it took some brave defending from Ryan Henderson to win the ball.
His turnover sparked a swift Clann Eireann counter and Turbitt’s speed sent him clean through but he decided to pass to Conor McConville and the midfielder’s shot was brilliantly blocked by a diving Gavin Burns.
Burns was in the thick of it again when his pressure forced Declan Mallon to cough up possession. Silverbridge worked the ball forward but Aaron Duffy blazed wide.
That was side’s third miss and Clann Eireann made the most of the let off when Ruairi McDonald drew James Meegan out of the centre and Daniel Magee calmly slotted the ball into the net.
Peter Carragher replied but Magee cancelled it out immediately when he punched Tiernan Kelly’s cross/shot over the bar for the last score of a forgettable half.
In contrast, the second half was action-packed. Duffy broke through and lashed a shot goalward and, when Jamie McAtavey failed to hold on, James Meegan drilled a deflected shot into the Clann Eireann net to level it.
The Lurgan men responded with wides from Turbitt and Dan McCarthy and Murphy, a former Crossmaglen player, edged the ’Bridge ahead.
With veterans Paddy Reel and Carragher acting as sweepers, Clann Eireann struggled to hold the ball up front but the introduction of Rioghan Meehan added pace to their midfield and Dan McCarthy equalised before Magee’s third score regained the lead.
Ronan Reel’s free levelled it but then Daniel Magee put in two massive hits in midfield and Adam Kelly split the posts from the left. Clann Eireann had the bit between their teeth and Kelly’s brother Tiernan pumped the ball to the far post where Turbitt jumped - his first effort hit the post but he bundled the ball into the net at the second attempt.
Murphy replied with a free but Silverbridge, trailing by three (2-5 to 1-5) with 10 minutes left, were running out of steam and Rioghan Meehan and sub Aodhan McConville got on the end of sweeping moves to extend Clann Eireann’s lead to five points.
The withdrawal of limping Jarly Og Burns five minutes from time signalled the end of the road for the Harps and nimble footwork from evergreen Henderson created a tap-over for Conor McConville. Meehan and Aodhan McConville added a couple more as Clann Eireann eased into the semi-finals and a meeting with their fierce Lurgan rivals.
Clann Eireann: J McAtavey; C O’Carroll, E Magee, B McCambridge; A Kelly (0-1), S McCarthy, R French; T Kelly, C McConville (0-1); D Magee (1-2), R McDonald, R Henderson; C Turbitt (1-1), D McCarthy (0-1), D Mallon
Subs: R Meehan (0-2) for Mallon (36), M O’Shea for S McCarthy (44), J Conlon for McDonald (48), A McConville (0-2) for D McCarthy (52), O Downey for O’Carroll (58)
Yellow card: McCarthy (12)
Silverbridge: G McGarvey; J Reel, J Meegan (1-0), J McArdle; G Burns, P Reel, A Duffy (0-1); P Carragher (0-1), J Martin; M Rowland, J og Burns, M Traynor; S Conlon, T Murphy (0-1 free), R Reel (0-1 free),
Subs: S Rock for Traynor (36), J Murphy for Rowland (48), P Keating for Murphy (48), O Martin for R Reel (51), G Reel for J Og Burns (56)
Yellow card: Burns (12)
Referee: Philip Conway (Grange)
Armagh SFC semi-finals: Clann Eireann v Clan na Gael, Crossmaglen v Madden