Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Uladh

Classy Tyrone see off Armagh

June 1st, 2009

tyrone-armagh-usfc2009.jpgUlster SFC Quarter-Final:
Tyrone 2-10  Armagh 1-10

Tyrone produced a fine display in the sun to see off Armagh by 2-10 to 1-10 in an entertaining Ulster Championship first round clash in Clones on Sunday.

Armagh began the stronger, and helped by some woeful Tyrone finishing, led by 0-3 to 0-1 after 15 minutes.

However, Tyrone soon produced the vibrant attacking football they are famed for and moved into the lead, helped by Stephen O’Neill’s excellent goal close to half-time.

Conor Gormley’s goal shortly after the restart put eight between the sides, but Armagh then mounted a resolute and sturdy comeback, anchored by a goal from Ronan Clarke.

They got within two of Tyrone and for a few moments looked like they could obliterate the lead altogether, but Mickey Harte’s men showed all their experience and class as they grabbed three quick points to ease out the win.

Gormley was dismissed close to the end for a second yellow, but by then Tyrone were safe.

Armagh got off to an excellent start when wing-forward Brian Mallon raced in and tapped over the bar after just 17 seconds.

It was a flowing move, set up by Kevin O’Rourke’s technically excellent pass inside and it was much of the same for the Ulster champions for the opening ten minutes of the game as their drive and urgency going forward appeared to expose a slack Tyrone.

Their second point came minutes later when midfielder James Lavery barged through the centre of the field with some powerful running before slotting over.

Tyrone finally settled into the early pace of the game set by Armagh but their shooting was awful for most of the first half, especially the opening 20 minutes. Kevin Hughes, Owen Mulligan (2) and Tommy McGuigan (3) were all guilty of some extremely tame efforts at goal.

However, even though they were missing lots of chances, they were beginning to dominate general play with Sean Cavanagh starting to break ball well in the middle, boosting the Red Hands’ typically surging attacking running from defence and midfield.

O’Neill eventually got Tyrone on the board with a free but Steven McDonnell then reestablished Armagh’s two point lead although he had Clarke in an excellent position for a goal chance when he chose to take a point.

This was fifteen minutes in, and the Orchard County failed to score again for the half as Tyrone finally began to make their increasing dominance count.

As well as missing chances for points, Tyrone also went close with two goal attempts with Paul Hearty denying O’Neill and then Martin Penrose after high balls into the danger area caused havoc.

However, after Cavanagh kicked a sublime effort from the left wing over and Tommy McGuigan then levelled things up with a handy free, Tyrone were excellent.

Joe McMahon’s booming effort from a placed ball gave Mickey Harte’s men the lead and then, just after Penrose was stopped from netting by Hearty, O’Neill plundered a goal of outstanding quality.

Davy Harte lashed a low, fast-moving ball into the edge of the square and O’Neill managed to control the bullet all in one balletic movement with one hand. He then twisted to his right, before settling on his left and burying low to the net under Hearty.

There was still time for a classy second point from Cavanagh to send Tyrone into the break with a five-point buffer.

McDonnell finally resumed Armagh’s scoring with a free immediately after the restart, but then in a clinical flourish, Tyrone showed that their cobwebbed slackness in the first half was well and truly banished.

Mulligan clipped over his first point and then within a minute he was thumping a ball into the rampaging Gormley, who had come up from the half-back line to control, compose himself and finished sweetly to the net off the underside of the bar.

In the hazy aftermath, McDonnell and Tommy McGuigan traded quick frees but after the dust settled, Tyyone were 2-7 to 0-5 ahead.

The All-Ireland champions were fully-deserving of their eight-point lead at that stage and they were delivering a surprisingly fresh display that has not been their trademark in the Ulster Championship in recent years.

But Armagh’s reputation down the years has been built on doggedness and they showed that although many of the names have gone, the spirit remains.

Aaron Kernan popped over a free to cut the gap to seven and then Armagh managed to grab a goal through one of their target men Ronan Clarke.

Clarke won a high ball in and although he was initially fouled by Gormley, referee Pat McEnaney allowed play to continue as Clarke rose from the challenge to finish powerfully to the net.

Kernan then put a goal in it with a controlled free with his left from a tricky angle on the right and suddenly, after a midgame malaise that looked like it had put paid to Peter McDonnell’s men, it was Tyrone who were probably beginning to regret those early wides.

Brian Mallon then propped himself on Armagh’s rising tide, knocking one over off the post to reduce it to two as the spectacular comeback continued.

Armagh looked like a different team, summonning a pace and passion that hadn’t look possible for much of the game.

But Tyrone, with all those All-Ireland days locked in their heads, stayed cool and composed, Mulligan drawing a foul to allow O’Neill tap over a free and put three between them again.

And then when it mattered most, Tyrone captain Brian Dooher took hold of possession 40 yards out and silenced any creeping doubts as he put his side four ahead.

O’Neill, in a triumphant Ulster Championship return, then scored a beautifully accomplished point as Tyrone greeted the nervous minutes with increasingly nerveless class and shooting.

There was still some bitterness for Tyrone though, as goalscorer Gormley was sent off for a second yellow in the last minute.

Armagh also managed to shave two points off the lead with points from Stefan Forker and an Aaron Kernan free. Tyrone had done more than enough though, even reckoning with Armagh’s admirable spirit.


Armagh: P Hearty; A Mallon, B Donaghy, B Shannon; F Moriarty, C McKeever, A Kernan; K Toner, J Lavery; P Duffy, M O’Rourke, B Mallon; S McDonnell, R Clarke, T Kernan.

Tyrone: J Devine; PJ Quinn, Justin McMahon, R McMenamin; D Harte, C Gormley, P Jordan; K Hughes, E McGinley; M Penrose, T McGuigan, Joe McMahon; S O’Neill, S Cavanagh, O Mulligan.


Video: Tyrone manager Mickey Harte after the defeat of Armagh in Clones
Video: Tyrone’s surprise goalscorer Conor Gormley takes advice from his Dad for the Ulster SFC game with Armagh
Video: Tyrone forward Stephen O’Neill is glad to be back in the Ulster Championship
Video: Joe McMahon – Mr Versatile on the Tyrone team
Video: Armagh manager Peter McDonnell after the defeat in Cloness
Video: Former Armagh captain Jarlath Burns gives his verdict on the Clones cracker
Video: Sunday Times reporter Michael Foley on Tyrone-Armagh and Cork-Kerry
Photo Gallery: Tyrone v Armagh USFC

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