Thursday 22 February 2018

Grimley snatches draw to boost survival hopes

Tyrone 0-13 Armagh 1-10

Armagh’s Niall Grimley celebrates after scoring an equalising goal in the final moments of their clash with Tyrone on Saturday. Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
Armagh’s Niall Grimley celebrates after scoring an equalising goal in the final moments of their clash with Tyrone on Saturday. Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
Armagh's Charlie Vernon. Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
Armagh's Niall Grimley tries to maintain possession of the ball. Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile

Orla Bannon

Considering whose need was the greater, this was definitely a point gained by Armagh rather than a point lost by Tyrone.

After freewheeling through this division, Mickey Harte's side were already guaranteed promotion and perhaps already thinking about a league final in Croke Park long before Niall Grimley flicked home an equalising goal right at the death in Healy Park.

Barring two occasions when they were tied in the first half, Tyrone led most of the way but despite not scoring from play for 48 minutes and being reduced to 14 men after Colm Watters picked up two yellows 10 minutes from the end, Armagh hung in long enough to enjoy a slice of luck which might yet keep them in the division.

"Those balls can go anywhere but we are starting to show more quality as we get more players back and to be getting something out of these games is a positive," said manager Kieran McGeeney.

"It doesn't feel like a victory, but it definitely felt like a point. Tyrone are one of the top five or six teams in the country and probably feel they played below par, but it's good to be able to mix with that company and get something out of it."

Tyrone could be without Peter Harte for the league final after he suffered a shoulder injury straight from the throw-in on a night when atrocious conditions were a leveller, while the knowledge that it wasn't a must-win game might also have played a part in the team's lack of urgency in the last quarter.

"There never was much between us but we always felt we were in some degree of control, but we weren't impressive enough on the scoreboard," Mickey Harte said.

"The conditions, both overhead and underfoot, made it a difficult night to play football and made it a bit of a dogfight. We still felt we would get the two points so it was unfortunate for it to end up that way but technically, we didn't need to win the game to be in the final.

"That's always challenging for the players to give their very best."

Much of the intensity has ebbed out of this fixture from when rivalry was at its zenith in 2005, and the warmth of the greeting between the managers after the finish suggested hostilities are well toned down these days.

The protagonists have changed, but for both sides it's always a scalp worth taking and Ronan O'Neill continued his impressive spring with a haul of 0-5, the Omagh man nailing some excellent frees into the wind in the opening half.


Rory Brennan was superb in defence while Ritchie Donnelly also stroked over two long-range beauties to give Tyrone a 0-8 a 0-6 lead at the break. Two Colm Watters points and a fine score from Aidan Forker were the Armagh highlights.

Tyrone held a 0-12 to 0-8 lead when Watters was dismissed in the 59th minute yet Tony Kernan's introduction was crucial, his point got Armagh going and he also floated in the high ball which Grimley touched into the net.

It's a point which could have huge significance if Armagh beat Derry to escape a speedy return to Division 3. "We always knew this division would be a dogfight and so it's proven," added McGeeney. "A kick of the ball against Laois and Galway and we're sitting second - miss them and we're bottom. We have a massive week ahead."

Scorers - Tyrone: R O'Neill 0-5 (3f), C McAliskey 0-3, R Donnelly 0-2, D McCurry 0-2 (2f), M Bradley 0-1. Armagh: S Campbell 0-6 (5f, 1 '45), N Grimley 1-0, C Watters 0-2, A Forker, T Kernan 0-1 each.

Tyrone - N Morgan 7; A McCrory 7, P Hampsey, 6 C McCarron 7; N Sludden 6, R Brennan 9, T McCann 6; C Cavanagh 8, M Donnelly 7; P Harte 6, R O'Neill 9, R Donnelly 8; D McCurry 7, S Cavanagh 7, C McAliskey 8. Subs: M Bradley 7 for Harte (5), B Tierney 7 for Sludden (52), C McCann 5 for McAliskey (57), P McNulty for R Donnelly (62).

Armagh - P Morrison 8; A Mallon 7, C Vernon 8, S Heffron 7; M Shields 6, S Connell 6, A Forker 7; J McElroy 7, E Rafferty 6; R Grugan 6, M McKenna 6, C O'Hanlon 6; C Watters 7, S Campbell 8, G McParland 6. Subs: T Kernan 8 for O'Hanlon (h-t), N Grimley 7 for Rafferty (58), A Findon 5 for McKenna (65), S Forker 5 for McParland (67), J Hall 6 for Campbell (69).

Ref - P Neilan (Roscommon)

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