Thursday 14 December 2017

Tyrone march on with ease as Mickey Harte's men swat aside Armagh with ruthless efficiency

Tyrone 3-17 Armagh 0-8

David Mulgrew of Tyrone celebrates the third goal in the 63rd minute
David Mulgrew of Tyrone celebrates the third goal in the 63rd minute

Those supporters from either county, especially Armagh, who got clogged up on the various northside arteries into Dublin might have been left wondering what all the stress was about.

By the time some of the stragglers had reached their seats this game was out of reach for Armagh as Tyrone eased into an All-Ireland semi-final, an early eight-point advantage far too much to give Mickey Harte's side.

In truth, Armagh never laid down a significant challenge as Tyrone controlled the game to frank their impressive Ulster Championship form.

Substitute David Mulgrew applied some polish in the second half with two goals as he got in behind an increasingly ragged Armagh defence but the damage was done in those early stages.

Armagh were unable to create any of the momentum they generated against Kildare seven days later with Jamie Clarke, their chief creator, left a frustrated figure and fortunate to stay on the field.

As it was both sides finished with 14 men. For the second successive game Cathal McCarron picked up two yellow cards while Armagh's Rory Grugan was black carded after they had used their six substitutes.

Mark Bradley of Tyrone in action against Charlie Vernon of Armagh
Mark Bradley of Tyrone in action against Charlie Vernon of Armagh

Once that early lead was established Tyrone were able to soak up whatever Armagh threw at them and could play the game on their own terms.

They defended deep, leaving only Mark Bradley up front at all times, and squeezed the space around Clarke to curb his influence.

They had more line-breakers too, none better than Tiernan McCann and Peter Harte who punched holes repeatedly.

Putting pressure on the Armagh kick-out which worked so well against Kildare also paid dividends and from one such interception they engineered their goal on 15 minutes with Harte stepping in to set up Bradley who was pulled down by James Morgan as he rotated to shoot, leaving referee David Gough with no choice but to award a penalty.

Harte is one of the best in the business and he converted with assurance for Tyrone to press 1-5 to 0-0 ahead, their points coming from Bradley (two), Colm Cavanagh, Sean Cavanagh (free) and McCann.

Armagh got off the mark through a Nial Grimley free three minutes later, one of just four conceded in the half.

But they were at arm's length throughout and were largely reduced to shots from distance.

They lost one of their scorers, Mark Shields, to a black card when he pulled down Harte in the 33rd minute and from the free Sean Cavanagh converted for a 1-7 to 0-3 lead that was 1-8 to 0-4 by the break.

The second half offered Armagh no respite as Tyrone opened up with Mulgrew particularly efficient with goals in the 55th and 63rd minutes, building an eventual 18-point win, a far cry from the great rivalry they enjoyed in the last decade.

Rory Grugan of Armagh in action against Matthew Donnelly of Tyrone
Rory Grugan of Armagh in action against Matthew Donnelly of Tyrone

Scorers - Tyrone: D Mulgrew 2-1, P Harte 1-2 (1-0 pen), S Cavanagh 0-4 (3fs), M Bradley 0-3, N Morgan 0-2 (2fs), T McCann, C Cavanagh,D McClure, M Donnelly, D McCurry all 0-1 each.

Armagh - R Grugan 0-3 (2fs), M Shields, P Hughes, N Grimley (f), J Clarke, G McParland all 0-1 each.

Tyrone: N Morgan; A McRory, R McNamee, C McCarron; T McCann, P Hampsey, P Harte; C Cavanagh, C McCann; M Donnelly, N Sludden, K McGeary; M Bradley, S Cavanagh, D McClure. Subs: D McCurry for McGeary (44), D Mulgrew for C McCann (44), R O'Neill for Bradley (50), R Brennan for McRory (50), R Donnelly for McClure (58), J McMahon for C Cavanagh (59)

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

Referee: David Gough (Meath)

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