GAA Football

Still room for improvement as Tyrone sweep Armagh aside

Tyrone's Mattie Donnelly is tackled by Armagh duo Charlie Vernon and James Morgan Picture by Seamus Loughran
Kenny Archer at Croke Park

All-Ireland SFC quarter-final: Tyrone 3-17 Armagh 0-8

JOB done – and then some. This was getting the car, the clothes, the dishes, the dog, and the children washed, the ironing done, the hedges clipped, the lawn mowed, and that leaky tap fixed. Oh, and Armagh swept aside, dumped out by a completely dominant Tyrone.

The questions about their All-Ireland chances will remain, of course, but Tyrone did all that was asked of them on Saturday afternoon, and more. Brushing off old rivals like a piece of lint, without appearing to break sweat, suggests there's more to come – although much more will be needed against Dublin.

This game was effectively done and dusted inside 15 minutes, by which time Tyrone led by 1-5 to no score, capped off by a penalty goal from the superb Peter Harte.

Many of the ticket-holders hadn't even made it into the ground at that stage. Many Armagh fans might wish they never had.

A full house was announced, although between people arriving late and others leaving early it probably was never a packed stadium at any stage. Armagh though must feel as if a house had dropped on them.

The worry for Tyrone was what might happen if Armagh got in front and had a lead to defend.

That scenario never materialised. Tyrone led inside the opening minute and it took until the end of the first quarter for Armagh even to score, from a free. The closest it got after that was a six-point gap, on two occasions, both times lasting for less than a minute.

Like in the Ulster Final, a sub came off the Tyrone bench to truly sink the opposition with two more brilliantly taken goals, this time young David Mulgrew doing the damage.

The result was Tyrone's biggest Championship win over Armagh for 76 years, since a 3-13 to 0-1 shellacking in 1941. They've only ever had five bigger wins in their history.

This was a demolition derby.

The 18-point winning margin was more than Tyrone cumulatively clocked up in their five previous Championship victories over Armagh from the 2003 All-Ireland Final onwards.

The target now is to reach the decider for the first time in almost a decade.

Against any other opponents than Dublin Mickey Harte's men would be favoured to do that, but the back-to-back national kingpins remain the top team in the country.

As this first game entered the 70th minute, a chant rose from the Hill: 'Come on you boys in blue'.

The challenge had been laid down by Tyrone, how would Dublin respond? Convincingly, disposing of Monaghan in similarly ruthless fashion.

Tyrone, obviously, could only look after their own house, and they did so in some style.

The Red Hands set the tone in the opening minute, Colm Cavanagh starting and finishing a passing move involving his brother Sean, Conall McCann, and Kieran McGeary.

The scores kept racking up, two quickly from Mark Bradley, a free from the skipper, and a sitter for Tiernan McCann, with Armagh managing only wides in reply.

Worse was to follow as Harte seized on a short kick-out, sent Bradley in on goal, and, after he turned, James Morgan fouled him. Harte confidently converted the spot kick.

That was Tyrone's first goal in a quarter-final goal since 2008, when they slammed three past Dublin en route to their third All-Ireland.

The Red Hands are clearly serious contenders for a fourth 'Sam', but there is still room for improvement.

Apart from goal-scorers Harte and Mulgrew, perhaps Mattie Donnelly and the younger Cavanagh, there may not have been outstanding individuals, but the collective is extremely impressive.

From the outset, white jerseys powered through attempted Armagh tackles, Tyrone's power and pace almost impossible to withstand.

The numbers make awful reading for Armagh. The Tyrone bench – just two subs, to be precise, scored as much as the entire Armagh team. The Orchardmen racked up as many cards – five yellows and three blacks – as scores.

Yet this was more about Tyrone being very good than Armagh being bad.

Having conceded 1-38 in three Ulster games, an average of almost 14 points, Tyrone nearly halved that in allowing Armagh just eight scores.

Orange-clad attackers repeatedly found themselves surrounded by several white shirts, the ball turned over, and yet another counter-attack launched.

The atmosphere wasn't helped by so many supporters still stuck outside the stadium, and on the pitch it was almost one-way traffic too.

Even in the heights of the press box you could almost hear the thwacks as Tyrone broke or made tackles. Then the strange silence at times as the crowd realised this wasn't a slugfest but more like a beating-up.

Tyrone were gorging on Armagh kick-outs, winning at least half a dozen in the first half.

Even when Armagh at last opened their account midway through the first half, after Cathal McCarron fouled Jamie Clarke off the ball, Tyrone hit back instantly. Sean Cavanagh cleverly broke the long kick-out to Harte, who ran through and fed Declan McClure for a simple score.

Armagh did get consecutive scores, and good ones, through Mark Shields and Gavin McParland, but they simply could not contain Tyrone's runners, at least not within the rules.

Shields had to go, black-carded for pulling down Harte, who capped off the first half scoring after another burst through the Armagh rearguard, to leave it 1-8 to 0-4 at the interval.

The first 10 minutes of the second half were fairly tight, but then a fabulous cross-field pass from Niall Sludden opened up Armagh to find Mulgrew and he opened up his body to coolly loft a shot into the net.

Both sides' discipline began to fray. Armagh sweeper Brendan Donaghy was booked for jumping into his counterpart Colm Cavanagh, who had to leave the pitch injured. Midfielder Stephen Sheridan was black-carded, presumably for something he said.

Then McCarron followed them off, collecting two bookings in just over a minute; the first appeared to be for protesting at Sheridan's replacement Darren McKenna kneeing Tiernan McCann in the head.

Yet the next minute Tyrone – and Mulgrew – had netted again, the Ardboe lad shrugging off Donaghy, who pulled out of another foul, before cheekily lobbing in.

To sum up Armagh's day, skipper Rory Grugan was black-carded just two minutes later, for taking down 'target man' Tiernan McCann, and with all six subs, the sides were level again – at least in terms of personnel.

There was a brief mini-fracas but, like the match, it was far removed from the good old, bad old days of the last decade.

Tyrone went on to win the 14-a-side game by four points to one. They might even have got a fourth goal, but Tiernan McCann fumbled the slippery ball with the nets in his sights.

It mattered not a jot. Tyrone had hammered their neighbours, completely taken them apart.

The next task is to find the tools not only to break down Dublin but also to ensure the defensive wall is solid enough to keep out their attack. Now, are they in the garage or the shed?

Tyrone: N Morgan (0-2 frees); A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron; T McCann (0-1), P Hampsey, P Harte (1-2, 1-0 penalty); C Cavanagh (0-1), C McCann; D McClure (0-1), N Sludden, K McGeary; M Bradley (0-3), S Cavanagh (capt.) (0-4, 0-3 frees), M Donnelly (0-1)

Substitutes: D Mulgrew (2-1) for C McCann (44); D McCurry (0-1) for McGeary (44); R Brennan for McCrory (51); R O'Neill for Bradley (51); R Donnelly for McClure (58); J McMahon for C Cavanagh (inj., 59)

Yellow cards: C Cavanagh (36, first half); McCarron (61 and 62)

Red cards: McCarron (yellow cards, 61 and 62)

Armagh: B Hughes; J Morgan, C Vernon, P Hughes (0-1); B Donaghy, M Shields (0-1), J McElroy; S Sheridan, N Grimley (0-1 free); R Grugan (capt.) (0-3, 0-2 free), C O'Hanlon, A Forker; J Clarke (0-1), G McParland (0-1), S Campbell. Substitutes: O O'Neill for O'Hanlon (30); A Duffy for Shields (black card, 33); E Rafferty for Campbell (46); B Crealey for McParland (51); C McKeever for Grimley (55); D McKenna for Sheridan (black card, 58)

Yellow cards: Morgan (15); McParland (43); Clarke (50); Donaghy (57); Vernon (74)

Black cards: Shields (31); Sheridan (57); Grugan (65)

Referee: David Gough (Meath)

Attendance: Full house

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