Eire Og were beaten by a slicker Grange side at Maghery on Sunday in the first round of the Intermediate Championship, but the winning margin flattered the Mid Armagh men who had to pull out all the stops against a dogged Craigavon side.
On a surface which invited an open game neither side were overly defensive, but it was Grange’s capability to break quicker which proved to be crucial over the 60 minutes.
Grange bossed the midfield sector in the first quarter both in the air on the deck where they appeared to win almost every breaking ball, but with the Pinebank men trailing on a score line of 1-06 to 0-02 the introduction of Conor O’Hagan to the midfield sector coupled a new resolve lead to the Ogs gaining the upper hand in the possession stakes.
Twice in the second half the Craigavon side pulled the deficit back to three points but a goal eluded them despite the fact that they created several clear cut opportunities.
The winners however found the net twice in the opening period, the first goal which came against the run of play, was a result of a close in free being given away by an Ogs forward. Seconds later Armagh player Michael McKenna blasted the ball past Eoin Fleming at the other end.
Cathal McKenna hit his sides second and most crucial goal minutes before the break to give Eire Og a mountain to climb, but to their credit they dominated the third quarter and battled to the end despite always chasing the game which looked just beyond their reach.
The losers had several contenders for the man of the match award. Nathan McConville made some telling runs and was accurate when in possession, Shane Matchett had a good outing at full back and following O’Hagan’s introduction the performance of Steven Burns and Conal Martin went up a notch to provide the majestic Daniel Ryan with the opportunity to attack down the flanks, a task he undertook with some aplomb.
Armagh player Ethan Rafferty despite a bright opening certainly didn’t always get things his own way and the midfielder wasted several opportunities in the second half.
In the opening quarter Ogs full forward Paul Creaney drew two converted frees and shot a brace of points, following earlier strikes from Nathan McConville and Daniel Ryan, midway through the half Conal Martin hit the best score of the game from out on the right and scores from Seamus Devlin and Marty Hoey kept the Pinebank men in touch if only just at the break.
Although a little bit of impatience saw the losers make several attempts on goals in the opening period of the second half, on settling, scores from Ryan and Sean Devlin left just three between the teams,.Nathan McConville capped a good performance with a sublime point near the end and an earlier effort from the games best player Daniel Ryan almost gave the Craigavon side an outside chance of causing an upset.
While the winners were a little bit more street wise, and more astute up front, the two goals in the second quarter proved decisive for the title favourites.