GAA Football

Armagh beat Tipperary to claim their first win of the season

Armagh's Stefan Campbell powers past Tipperary's Emmett Moloney in the Allianz National Football League Division Two match at the Athletic Grounds yesterday.
Picture Bill Smyth
Andy Watters at the Athletic Grounds

Allianz National Football League Division Two: Armagh 1-15 Tipperary 0-12

ARMAGH dedicated this convincing victory to the memory of former player and manager John Morrison and the great man would have been pleased with a lot of what the Orchardmen produced yesterday.

At times, particularly in the first half, Armagh looked virtually impregnable in defence and in control all over the field and Tipperary, without red-carded Brian Fox from the 25th minute, scored just twice from play with the first of those scores coming 55 minutes into the game.

Armagh bossed the visitors physically, the Tipp player in possession was always under pressure and the Orchardmen turned the ball over again and again before breaking forward in numbers with searing pace.

The game could have been over at half-time and Tipp needed a succession of frees, mostly ranging from borderline to soft, to stay in touch.

When Charlie Vernon netted the Armagh goal midway through the first half it looked like Tipp, without several key players including talismanic forward Michael Quinlivan, would be on the wrong side of a heavy mauling but the Munster men regrouped and almost broke even as the game petered out in the second half.

It was a first win of the season for Armagh and assistant-manager Jim McCorry was pleased with many aspects of his side’s performance yesterday. Most of all, he was pleased with the two points after near-misses against Kildare and Clare.

“After the goal we took the foot off the pedal a wee bit and that seems to be the norm with a number of teams – after they get the ace of a score they seem to step back a wee bit instead of putting their foot onto the jugular and killing teams off,” he said.

“We had plenty of opportunities to do that but we didn’t take them. At times we over-played it a bit when there were easier scores to be taken but, at the same time, there were some tremendous scores and that was heartening.

“It was nice just to close out this game because we’ve been sitting in this position in two games where we’ve been leading and teams have come back and took a point off us and we were determined that wasn’t going to happen today.

“Our match-ups worked really well, our defence was very solid and there were quite a few turnovers from tackles. I’m quite happy with the defensive shape we had and the physicality we had today as well.”

He added: “We’re dedicating that to John Morrison’s memory, for what he did for Armagh football.”

Meanwhile, Tipperary manager Liam Kearns took what positives he could from yesterday’s defeat. His side were second best but never threw the towel in.

“We had two debutants in there who found it tough enough going and Michael O’Reilly was only in his third game so our resources are stretched to the limit,” said Kearns.

“We were playing a strong Armagh team and we were in trouble – every time the ball went in to our forwards it was coming back out. They were hitting us on the break then and they were getting scores.

“After 15-20 minutes you would have worried for what could have happened but, in fairness, my fellas always show heart and character, they don’t except the inevitable and they fought to the very end.”

Kearns’ men attacked early on yesterday but the Armagh defence slammed the door in their faces and James Morgan and then Greg McCabe, who had another composed game as the spare man in defence, won the ball and set the Orchardmen off on the attack.

Stefan Campbell, who makes the game look very easy at times, opened the scoring but was then penalized when he tackled back deep into his own half. Conor Sweeney converted the free.

Armagh’s midfield trio of Niall Grimley, Stephen Sheridan and Charlie Vernon were in control from their kick-outs and Vernon scored his side’s second point after Grimley’s mark had sent the home side on the attack.

Forker’s vision set up Rian O’Neill for a nonchalant finish and a Grimley ‘45’ had Armagh 0-4 to 0-1 ahead after 11 minutes.

Liam McGrath replied with a free but it was cancelled out by a Rory Grugan score after Aaron McKay had out-hustled Sweeney and set up a swift counterattack and then Jemar Hall swept up a loose ball to send Armagh four ahead.

A rare Tipp attack ended with a wide and Vernon won the kick-out and raced forward to get on the end of O’Neill’s pass, skip around the goalkeeper and find the net. Forker was denied by an acrobatic save from Michael O’Reilly when he went close to adding another goal and Tipp’s dwindling prospects all but disappeared when Fox was sent off for striking out at Jamie Clarke.

Grugan and Sweeney swapped frees and Grimley threw himself in bravely to punch a score before Armagh, who were in total control, took their foot off the gas and conceded three points on-the-trot.

However, Grimley’s long ball found O’Neill one-on-one and the Crossmaglen forward beat John Meagher with ease to leave his side 1-9 to 0-7 in front at the interval.

Armagh converted only two – albeit superb points from Grugan and Paul Hughes – out of eight early second half chances as 14-man Tipp dug in and managed to stay in touch with them thanks to frees from Sweeney and McGrath.

The Orchardmen were guilty of over-elaborating at times but the hard work had been done in the first half and they seemed cautious not to leave the door ajar and allow Tipp – who had scored six goals in three games this season - to mount an unlikely comeback.

Grimley (two), Campbell and O’Neill all registered for the home side while McGrath and Liam Boland hit points from play for the visitors as the game petered out in the spring sunshine.

Donegal will be a much tougher nut to crack and the winners on Saturday night will be right in the thick of the promotion shake-up with two games to go. An intriguing battle awaits.

MATCH STATS
Armagh:
B Hughes; J Morgan, A McKay, P Hughes (0-1); A Forker, G McCabe, C Mackin; S Sheridan, N Grimley (0-4, 0-1 free, 0-2 45s); J Hall (0-1), R Grugan (0-3), C Vernon (1-1); S Campbell (0-2), R O’Neill (0-3), J Clarke
Subs: R Kennedy for Morgan (ht), J McElroy for Forker (41), A Nugent for Clarke (61), P Casey for Mackin (61), E Rafferty for O’Neill (70)
Yellow cards: Morgan (5), Clarke (43), Campbell (70)

Tipperary: M O’Reilly; A Campbell, J Meagher, E Moloney; C Kennedy, D Brennan, J Feehan; S O’Brien, L Casey; K O’Halloran, L McGrath (0-6, 0-5 frees), B Fox; P Austin, C Sweeney (0-5, 0-4 frees, 0-1 sideline), P Maher
Subs: L Boland (0-1) for C Kennedy (31), D O’Meara for O’Halloran (49), B Hyland for Austin (53), P Codd for S O’Brien (69)
Yellow cards: McGrath (5), Casey (19), Sweeney (48)
Red card: Fox (25)

Referee: J Henry (Mayo)

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