Ulster SFC: Armagh edge out Down in dramatic Newry quarter-final

Armagh substitute Mark Shields celebrates his second-half goal against Down on Sunday
Armagh substitute Mark Shields celebrates his second-half goal against Down on Sunday

Andrew Murnin's goal in the second period of extra-time gave Armagh a 2-17 to 3-13 victory over Down in a stunning Ulster SFC quarter-final in Newry.

Armagh led by five against their 14-man hosts before a late flurry of Down points sent the game into extra-time.

Down returned to their full complement and went three up but seven straight points gave Kieran McGeeney his first Ulster SFC win as Armagh boss.

A Jarlath Og Burns own goal gave Down hope but the visitors held on.

In a truly remarkable game, Armagh looked to have seized control after Caolan Mooney was shown red on the stroke of half-time.

Seemingly headed towards a convincing defeat, the pendulum suddenly swung in favour of Down as an excellent Donal O'Hare goal and injury-time points from Paul Devlin and James Guinness brought them level.

Orchard forward Jamie Clarke is tracked by Gerard Collins at Pairc Esler
Orchard forward Jamie Clarke is tracked by Gerard Collins at Pairc Esler

Paddy Tally's side carried that momentum into extra-time and moved into a three-point lead with 10 minutes remaining.

However, the final chapter belonged to Armagh with Murnin fisting Rian O'Neill's long ball into the net as the visitors scored seven unanswered points in a five-minute spell.

The sizeable travelling support greeted the final whistle with understandable elation after the late own goal ensured that the drama continued right until the very end.

Debutant O'Neill leads way for Armagh

Much of the build-up to the game focused on the new faces in both sides, with O'Neill selected to lead Armagh's full-forward line with the experienced Stefan Campbell named on the bench.

Crossmaglen man O'Neill more than justified McGeeney's bold selection with an outstanding individual display, ending his Ulster Championship debut with eight points.

As captain Rory Grugan struggled to find his usual range and accuracy from frees - O'Neill took responsibility to keep the scoreboard moving from the moment he nailed his opening score with the outside of the boot after just five minutes.

Having initially struggled to find a rhythm, Down turned the game in their favour midway through the opening half through two balls launched high into the square.

Down pair Conor Maginn and Conor Poland close in on Orchard forward Ethan Rafferty
Down pair Conor Maginn and Conor Poland close in on Orchard forward Ethan Rafferty

The first was taken and fired over the bar by Connaire Harrison, while the second was fisted into the net by championship debutant Pat Havern.

Mooney's red card for a high challenge on Aidan Nugent looked to have put Armagh in the box seat, and the visitors went about making the most of their numerical advantage as Mark Shields rounded keeper Mark Hynes to slot into the empty net.

Down's late late show

A feature of Down's first league campaign under new boss Tally was their ability to turn games around late in the second half.

Even with their burgeoning reputation, not many among the 15,000 in Newry gave the hosts much of a chance as the game appeared to be headed towards a low key finale.

However, when O'Hare drilled a low effort beyond Blaine Hughes the ground erupted, with the two late points that followed sending the home fans into ecstasy.

The late turnaround continued into extra-time as Armagh appeared shell-shocked with Down, now back to 15 men, fired over three further points without reply.

With experienced campaigners Campbell and Murnin brought on from the bench, Armagh found a second wind and levelled before Murnin expertly flicked O'Neill's long ball into the bottom corner.

A hopeful high ball at the other end resulted in the impressive Burns knocking it into his own net, but the goal was not enough for Down, who now find themselves in the draw for the first round of All-Ireland qualifiers.

Down: R Burns; D O'Hagan, R Wells, G Collins; R McAleenan, K McKernan, D Guinness; C Mooney, C Poland (0-1); C Francis (0-1), J Johnston (0-1), C Maginn; P Havern (1-1), D O'Hare (0-2), C Harrison (0-1).

Subs: M Hynes, C Flanagan, P Laverty, R Mallon, J Guinness (0-2) for Wells 26, C McGrady, B O'Hagan (0-1) for Maginn 48, P Devlin (0-2) for Johnston 71, C Quinn for O'Hare 71, O McCabe (0-1) for Poland 78, A Murnin 1-1.

Armagh: B Hughes; P Burns, A McKay, P Hughes; R Kennedy (0-2), B Donaghy, A Forker; C Vernon, J Og Burns; A Nugent (0-1), E Rafferty, J Hall; R Grugan, R O'Neill (0-8), J Clarke (0-2).

Subs: J Morgan (0-1) for Burns 5, M Shields (1-0) for Vernon 30, J McElroy for Hughes 45, S Campbell (0-2) for Rafferty 46, M Hughes on for Burns (51), S Sheridan for Kennedy 64, G McCabe for Burns 68, B Crealey for Sheridan 77, A Murnin 0-1.

Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow)

Attendance: 15,112