Red Hands thwart a late Armagh thrust
The Ulster Championship was launched at the Titanic Visitors Centre in Belfast and on Sunday it the championship finally had a game to live up to the billing as Tyrone and Armagh played out a titanic game in the Athletic Grounds, writes Seamus Donnelly.
Tyrone were hauled back time and again by a gritty bhome side but they eventually ran out three point winners over their neighbours thanks to late points from Martin Penrose, Peter Harte and Stephen O’Neill.
At times Tyrone struggled to contain an on fire Armagh forward line with Jamie Clarke and Brian Mallon proving to be particularly deadly.
In many ways the pivotal moment of the game was the sending off of Armagh’s Kevin Dyas for two senseless fouls in the closing minutes.
Armagh started the match brightly and within the first minute Brian Mallon had won a free of Justin McMahon which the Portadown man which he converted himself.
Tyrone hit back immediately through Joe McMahon who converted a monstrous free kick to tie the scores up in the fourth minute from underneath the stand 45
Brian Mallon received a long direct ball from Aidan Forker before turning and rounding Justin McMahon and shooting at the perfect height for keeper Pascal McConnell to parry it away.
Colm Cavanagh put Tyrone into the lead for the first time after receiving the ball from Sean O’Neill on the run and dropped it just over the Armagh crossbar.
Armagh hit back as two newcomers combined to register a goal, Caolan Rafferty playing in Aidan Forker who slotting passed the on rushing Pascal McConnell to give Armagh the lead
Tyrone hit back almost immediately however and responded through Colm Cavanagh who scored his second point of the game and Owen Mulligan who registered his first.
Jamie Clarke would cause Tyrone endless problems and scored his first of the game alluding Aidan McCrory to fire over the bar from a tight angle
Tyrone again responded well this time through Martin Penrose whose shot with the sailed over the crossbar.
Tyrone were on a roll and took the lead again in the 16th minute when Peter Harte who had been quiet up until that point turned and kicked the ball over the bar from 35 metres in front of the goals.
Owen Mulligan built on his total in converting a simple free after Peter Harte had been fouled but this was cancelled out by the outstanding Jamie Clarke.
Stephen O’Neill then produced the kind of magic the whole of Ireland knows he is capable of with an absolutely sublime effort turning Ciaran McKeever inside and out.
Armagh then closed the gap through Kevin Dyas and an Aidan Forker free after Clarke was fouled by McCrory.
Mark Donnelly was causing Armagh problems and he got his name on the scoresheet after good work from Colm Cavangh, before Martin Penrose extended the Tyrone lead to two points just before half time.
A late Dermot Carlin point from play left three between the teams as the game reached the half.
The teams opened the second half exchanging points in the early minutes with Martin Penrose and Brian Mallon again exchanging frees.
Carrickmore man Penrose was clinical from free all day and extended Tyrone’s lead to four points after Mark Donnelly was fouled.
Armagh however were not going to give up and half time substitute Gavin McParland was ably assisting Jamie Clarke up front as he registered a point of his own.
Armagh were beginning to dominate proceedings as Tyrone struggled to find Owen Mulligan and Stephen O’Neill in the full forward line.
Gavin McParland was really making his presence felt in the Armagh forward line and he kicked a fantastic point swinging the ball over the bar with his back to goal.
Stephen O’Neill again showed his class in the Tyrone attack, and was fouled in the 15th minute for a point that Martin Penrose converted with ease.
O’Neill was beginning to cause Armagh all kinds of problems and he was almost in for a goal when he won a long high ball into the Armagh square.
While denied a shot at goal, O’Neill has able to tee up Martin Penrose who lofted over his sixth point of the day.
Armagh’s cause was not helped when Kevin Dyas, who was operating in the half back line after the substitution of Aaron Kernan, was sent off for two yellow cards in the space of a minute after cynical fouls on Ronan McNabb and Peter Harte.
Armagh reduced the deficit to two points with a Jamie Clarke free after John Kingham was fouled by Joe McMahon.
Brian Mallon closed the deficit still further in the next minute with free from 40 metres out and there were only one points between the teams.
With four minutes to play Mallon tied the game up with another mighty free this time from outside the 45 metre line.
But Tyrone were not going to fold that easily and Peter Harte rose to the occasion as the tension rose in the Athletic Grounds, his point putting Tyrone ahead again
Tyrone got were soon to take advantage of the extra man and got two more quick points through Penrose and Stephen O’Neill who scored a great point from the wing after fantastic build up play from Peter Harte and Niall McKenna
Armagh were not going to give up without a fight however and the always dangerous Jamie Clarke scored a point of a knock down from substitute Kingham at the edge of the square as the game drew towards the seventieth minute.
Tyrone got the insurance point in the final minute of added time when the deadly accurate Martin Penrose scored his 8th point of the game.
They now advance to meet champions Donegal or Derry in the provincial semi-final.
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