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Armagh surged ahead in the second half and cantered home by 13 points to book an Ulster Championship semi-final against Monaghan on July 17.

Visitors Antrim had been written off by all sundry before the ball was thrown in at the Athletic Grounds but they gave a good account of themselves throughout a competitive first half that finished with the Orchardmen, who never seem particularly comfortable with the favourites’ tag, leading by just two points.

Armagh's Jarlath og Burns surges past Antrim's Conor Stewart. Photograph: Brendan Monaghan
Armagh's Jarlath og Burns surges past Antrim's Conor Stewart. Photograph: Brendan Monaghan

Rory Grugan had scored Armagh’s goal in the first half but the Ballymacnab forward also missed another golden opportunity while Antrim came close to a goal off their own when Ruairi McCann broke through the Armagh rearguard after 27 minutes.

Carrickcruppen clubman Hughes was off his line smartly to deny McCann and, after a frank appraisal of their performance from Kieran McGeeney at half-time, Armagh upped the ante in the second period. Rian O’Neill converted a penalty to leave clear daylight between the sides and although Antrim continued to enjoy moments of success they tired and goals from substitutes Conor Turbitt and Tiarnan Kelly added some gloss to the scoreline. 

Armagh's Jemar Hall on the ball at the Athletic Grounds. Photograph: Brendan Monaghan
Armagh's Jemar Hall on the ball at the Athletic Grounds. Photograph: Brendan Monaghan

Armagh struggled to find the fluency many expected in this game but still won by 13 points. There is better to come from McGeeney’s side and they will need it against a Monaghan outfit that blew Fermanagh away at Clones on Saturday.    

Afterwards McGeeney reflected on a patchy performance from his side. 

“But I thought we didn’t put in the workrate they are capable of and they changed it,” he said. 

“And the fellas that came in showed that’s what happens if you don't there are fellas there that will.

“It was a good lesson for us but not to take away, Antrim’s ability to keep possession in the first half and their pace inside caused problems, and that was a big factor as well.”

Final score: Armagh 4-15 Antrim 0-14

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