Armagh hold off the Red Hands to a clinch semi-final berth

Dr McKenna Cup Round Three


By Barry O’Donnell

THE margins were wafer-thin come the final whistle last night but when the various permutations were untangled it was Armagh who booked their passage into the last four of the McKenna Cup by virtue of this narrow victory over old adversaries Tyrone at the Athletic Grounds.

Despite the concession of a bizarre goal struck from all of 45 metres by Tyrone sub Dalaigh Jones in injury time, the Orchard still made the semi-finals as the best of the second placed sides on score difference.

In contrast it’s two defeats from two for Tyrone who now turn their thoughts to more meaningful assignments down the road in the National League, but clearly they need a few of their big hitters back in the fold.

Tyrone made six changes from their opening day loss to Donegal, the most notable absentees being the Canavan brothers, missing due to Sigerson Cup commitments. Hosts Armagh were also much stronger than the youthful line-up who took to the field for that now void contest with Donegal a week ago.

In front of a crowd of just over three and a half thousand it was the visitors who made the more enterprising start, with seasoned operators such as Michael McKernana, Peter Harte and captain Brian Kennedy helping them to take a grip on proceedings.

Harte (free) and McKernan were among the early scorers, while Ryan Jones also put the cap on some patient approach work with a terrific conversion. All Armagh could muster in response was an Oisin O’Neill free, one of four placed balls he slotted over in the first period.

In the tenth minute Tyrone appeared to have firmly grabbed the initiative when a high punt into the square by Kennedy was touched on by Lorcan McGarrity to Tarlach Quinn and he fired high to the net from close range.

However within seconds the home side were raising a green flag at the other end, adventurous corner back Peter McGrane earning due reward for his forward sortie as he swept a shot past Niall Morgan having been teed up by O’Neill.

Buoyed by this the Orchard men began to hit their straps and they rattled off three points on the spin to jump out in front, a hat-trick of O’Neill frees punishing some ragged Tyrone tackling. Both keepers looked assured when in possession but Armagh netminder Shea McMagill underlined his shot-stopping prowess as he denied Tiarnan Quinn after the Coalisland ace cut in menacingly along the endline.

There was a pleasing flow to the exchanges, albeit an understandable lack of real intensity or bite. In the run-up to the interval Tyrone flexed their attacking muscles again, Lorcan McGarrity swinging over a brace of quality efforts, while the Fianna duo of Quinn and McKernan (the latter from an acute angle) also split the posts.

Those scores eased the Red Hands three to the good but by the interval that cushion was down to the minimum after Cian McConville knocked over a free and the lively McGrane swivelled to convert having latched onto a loose ball in around the small square. (Tyrone 1-7 Armagh 1-6)

The hosts carried the momentum into the second half with four points on the spin, Oisin and Callum O’Neill among the men on target.

A pointed ‘mark’ with his first touch by Tyrone sub Conor Owens arrested their slump but with McGarrity twice denied by keeper Magill the Red Hands began to run out of time.

Late scores from Niall Rowland and Joe Sheridan ensured that Dalaigh Jones’ late goal at the other end ultimately proved academic, with Tyrone also losing Michael McKernan to a second yellow card towards the close.

The Scorers

Armagh: Oisin O’Neill (0-7,6frees), Peter McGrane (1-1), Cian McConville (0-3,2frees), Joe Sheridan, Callum O’Neill, Niall Rowland (0-1 each)

Tyrone: Lorcan McGarrity (0-3,2frees), Tarlach Quinn (1-0), Dalaigh Jones (1-0), Peter Harte (0-2,2ftees), Michael McKernan (0-2), Ryan Jones, Tiarnan Quinn, Conor Owens (0-1 each)

The Teams

Armagh: Shea Magill, Tomas McCormack, Aaron McKay, Peter McGrane, Connaire Mackin, Niall Rowland, Mark Shields, Ciaran Higgins, Niall Grimley, Joe Sheridan, Callum O’Neill, Tiernan Kelly, Cian McConville, Oisin O’Neill, Darragh McMullan
Subs: Jarly Óg Burns for A McKay (h-time), Jemar Hall for T Kelly (53), Oisin Conaty for O O’Neill (61), Justin Kieran for D McMullan (64), Ciaran O’Hanlon for M Shields (64)

Tyrone: Niall Morgan, Conall Owens, Michael McKernan, Aidan Clarke, Ben Cullen, Tarlach Quinn, Niall Devlin, Brian Kennedy, Aodhan Donaghy, Ryan Jones, Peter Harte, Ciaran Daly, James Garrity, Lorcan McGarrity, Tiarnan Quinn
Subs: James Donaghy for B Cullen (h-time), David Mulgrew for J Garrity (49), Conn Kilpatrick for R Jones (49), Conor Owens for A Donaghy (51), Dalaigh Jones for C Daly (61), Nathan McCarron for T Quinn (64)

Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan)

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW