Armagh City 4 Banbridge Town 0
Armagh City clinched the Belfast Telegraph Championship Two title on Tuesday night with an excellent 4-0 win over visitors Banbridge Town.
A hat-trick by returning midfielder Philip Donnelly set the Holm Park side on their way as they turned in a flawless performance against the stunned opposition.
Afterwards club captain Liam Cullen held the Championship Trophy aloft as Armagh captured the title with two league games still to be played.
City could have opened their account in the opening minute but Town ‘keeper Stephen Cairnduff got down low to divert a Stephen Murray effort around an upright.
Early on, play was fairly even and the visitors hit back when a Conor Downey blast was ushered around an upright by outstretched Armagh ‘keeper Sean Morgan. From the resultant corner Morgan had to be alert once again to save a strong header from Steven O’Neill.
But that was as good as it got for Banbridge who went behind on 18 minutes and, after the opening score, rarely got a look-in.
The score itself came when a through ball from Shea McGerrigan was picked up by Murray, who won the ball just in front of Cairnduff, and squared it across the six-yard box where the onrushing Donnelly crashed it home from close range.
Five minutes later Murray almost embarrassed Cairnduff with a clever chip and, from the resultant corner, Ultan Lennon had a downward header cleared off the goal-line by defender Nathan Baird.
On 26 minutes a 20-yard snap-shot from Donnelly flashed inches wide and Murray flicked a header just the wrong side an upright on 35 minutes as City increased the pressure.
Lennon went close from a Shea McGerrigan corner on 37 minutes but, at the third attempt a minute later, the duo were successful from the set-piece as the big defender found the net at the back-post again with a strong headed effort.
Half-time: Armagh City 2 Banbridge Town 0.
Just after the break another Lennon header was well collected by Cairnduff as City continued to pile on the pressure.
But there was no stopping the local outfit on 54 minutes.
Murray lifted the ball over the back-four into the path of Donnelly who fired home a tremendous half-volly which gave the impressive Cairnduff no chance on this occasion.
Moments late Donnelly just dragged another well struck shot narrowly wide as City continued to shift through the gears.
They were now creating chance after chance, with Shea McGerrigan carving the Town defence apart down the left.
Murray, Cullen and Eamon Kelly almost got in on the act before Armagh wrapped up the match on 66 minutes.
Initially Cullen broke into the box but his shot was charged down by Cairnduff. He diverted the ball into the path of Donnelly and the midfielder returned it with interest into the top right-hand corner of the net.
Towards the end Town did have a couple of rare chances to make their mark but Johnny Kernoghan and O’Neill were unable to convert.
This was a real polished performance by City who could easily have doubled their tally will more potent finishing. The team played at a fast pace throughout, with inch-perfect passing cutting holes in a normally solid defence. One of their best displays of the season at a vital time.
Man-of-the-match was hat-trick hero Donnelly who was starting his first match in almost a month.
Armagh City: Sean Morgan, Dale Montgomey, Dale Montgomery, Ryan McGerrigan, Ultan Lennon, Dara Noonan, Eamon Kelly, Matthew Hynds (Kevin Keegan on 80), Liam Cullen (y/c), Philip Donnelly (Gareth Grimley on 70), Stephen Murray, Ryan McGerrigan (Gavin McParland on 80). Subs not used: Luke Grimley, Andy Moore.
Banbridge Town: Stephen Cairnduff, James Wilson, Nathan Baird (y/c), Steven Greene, Glen Waddell, Martin Buchanan, Mark Treanor, Damien McParland (Michael Ferguson on 45), Steven O’Neill, Conor Downey (Neil Watson on 64), Johnny Kernoghan (David Gray on 80). Subs not used: Gary Boyle, Gary Orr.
Ref: Damien Basketfield, (Banbridge).