Niall Grimley refuses to let Armagh go down without a fight
Allianz National Football League Division Two: Tyrone 0-13 Armagh 1-10
IT RAINED all day on Saturday and the Omagh pitch was a soggy quagmire by the time the game reached its finale.
Time was almost up when Niall Grimley, an unlikely Armagh hero, rose out of the gutters in the Tyrone goalmouth to flick Tony Kernan’s punt into the net and earn his side a draw.
It could prove to be a vital point for an Orchard side fighting for survival in Division Two. They have bounced back impressively after a thumping from Cavan to draw with Galway and now Tyrone. With four points on the board and a home game against Derry to come, Kieran McGeeney’s men will feel they can avoid the drop.
Doing so is crucial for this side’s development and Armagh will feel like they won this game because they looked dead and buried when Colm Watters was sent off and they trailed by four points with a little over 10 minutes to go. But Tyrone couldn’t finish them off.
Yes, they are already promoted, terrible conditions played a part and the Red Hands hit the upright twice and missed a late free that could have settled it, but the Orchard men wasted several good scoring chances themselves and deserve great credit for fighting to the dramatic finish.
It all ended badly for Tyrone but they came roaring out of the traps and were ahead inside 20 seconds after Richard Donnelly’s run created the space for Ronan O’Neill to fist the ball over the bar. Peter Harte had won the ball to start the attack and his bravery cost him - he was injured and was replaced after five minutes.
By that time Armagh were level. They had kicked the ball away twice beforehand, but Gavin McParland was able to get his hands on it and the Orchard men were awarded a free that Stefan Campbell stroked over the bar.
Armagh goalkeeper Paddy Morrison, who looks set for a run in the side, came out to claim an O’Neill effort that dropped short, but Tyrone soon regained the lead when O’Neill judged the conditions beautifully and swung a difficult free between the posts. Then Sean Cavanagh’s quick thinking found Richard Donnelly in space and he showed impressive control to send the Red Hands two ahead.
But Armagh were enjoying a lot of success attacking up their left flank and Colm Watters lost marker Padraig Hampsey – making his League debut – and pulled one back. McAliskey cancelled it out, but Aidan Forker and a second from Watters soon had Armagh back level.
O’Neill edged Tyrone ahead once more and when they didn’t have the ball the home side played with only Darren McCurry in attack. The Orchardmen left Shea Heffron and Sean Connell to keep him in check and threw everyone else forward in search of scores. They worked hard to earn frees but Campbell had a bad patch and missed two good chances.
Richard Donnelly had Tyrone two ahead before Clan na Gael forward Campbell got back on target but the Red Hands bounced back quickly once again. Tiarnan McCann, whose gliding forward runs were a feature of the first half, left defenders in his wake and played a sliderule ball to Connor McAliskey. He bore down on goal but blazed over the bar with a goal on.
Another Campbell free followed but Tyrone had the final say in the half when McAliskey sold his marker a dummy and sent the home side in with a useful 0-8 to 0-6 advantage.
Tony Kernan replaced Ciaran O’Hanlon for the second half and his passing ability immediately began to pay dividends. Gavin McParland showed well at full-forward and gathered a long ball before off-loading to Watters who briefly had a sight of goal but fisted wide. Micheal McKenna dropped his effort short and Tyrone broke with lightning speed up the pitch and O’Neill opened a three-point gap for the first time.
Kernan and McParland linked well again and, though his shot was saved by Morgan, referee Paddy Neilan spotted a tug on his jersey, and Armagh had a free which Campbell converted.
McParland, giving McCarron a torrid time, created another scoring chance for Sean Connell. He shot wide, but Tyrone’s shooting wasn’t much better – Mark Bradley fired wide twice when he should have scored.
Morgan was rebuked by his defenders after he opted to palm Grugan’s punt behind and Campbell stroked over a superb ‘45’ to leave just a point in it. But Tyrone kicked on again. O’Neill slotted over another free, and then McCurry got in on the act with two of his own to extend the lead to four points. Watters received his marching orders for a second yellow and though Kernan scored Armagh’s first point from play in 48 minutes Connall McCann’s persistence created another chance for Bradley and this time he made no mistake. Tyrone led 0-13 to 0-9.
Barry Tierney became the second Tyrone player to hit the woodwork before Campbell scored his sixth point of the game to keep Armagh in touch. O’Neill had a chance to send Tyrone four ahead as normal time ended but his accuracy deserted him and Armagh sniffed the chance to go home with something.
The pressure began to build on Tyrone. Shea Heffron’s shot was deflected wide and Kernan chipped the ball into the goalmouth. Jemar Hall fired in a hopeful shot that Colm Cavanagh smothered but Tyrone were hemmed in deep inside their half.
Mattie Donnelly was penalised for over-carrying as he tried to break out and Kernan sent another bomb into the goalmouth. Grimley rose highest and Armagh - who had been denied in identical circumstances by Galway a fortnight earlier - claimed an unlikely draw that could well keep them up.
Tyrone: N Morgan; A McCrory, P Hampsey, C McCarron; N Sludden, R Brennan, T McCann; C Cavanagh, M Donnelly; P Harte, R O’Neill (0-5, 0-3 frees), R Donnelly (0-2); D McCurry (0-2 frees), S Cavanagh, C McAliskey (0-3); Subs: M Bradley (0-1) for P Harte (5), B Tierney for Sludden (51), C McCann for McAliskey (56), P McNulty for R Donnelly (61); Yellow cards: C Cavanagh (13), C McCarron (68)
Armagh: P Morrison; A Mallon, C Vernon, S Heffron; M Shields, A Forker, S Connell; J McElroy, E Rafferty; R Grugan, E Rafferty (0-1); R Grugan, M McKenna, C O’Hanlon; C Watters (0-2), S Campbell (0-6, 0-5 frees, 0-1 ‘45’), G McParland; Subs: T Kernan (0-1) for O’Hanlon (h-t), N Grimley for Rafferty (56), S Forker for McParland (62), Findon for McKenna (65), Hall for Campbell (68); Yellow cards: C Watters (19 & 59), Rafferty (48); Red card: Watters (59)
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon)