Armagh’s bid to regain Division 2 status got off to a great start as Jamie Clarke played a big role in Armagh coming from behind late on to win their opening Allianz National League Division 3 clash against 14 man Tipperary.
Clarke got Armagh’s opening three scores and converted a penalty before popping up in crucial areas in injury time to level and then push the Orchard ahead and to victory at the Athletic Grounds.
The first half began with Armagh and Tipperary taking a while to find their range as both sides traded wides while Armagh tested Evan Comerford’s high catching when they dropped several efforts short.
The Premier County then worked the ball into corner forward Conor Sweeney who did well to pull away from Finnian Moriarty but the Wolfe Tones man recovered fantastically to make an excellent block.
This proved essential as Armagh went on the immediate counter attack with ball eventually arriving in the hands of Jamie Clarke. The Crossmaglen forward lost his marker before opening the day’s scoring with a great point.
More resilient defending saw Tipperary’s full forward Michael Quinlivan dispossessed and Tipp being restricted to efforts from distance.
Another foray forward for Armagh saw Clarke tease two Tipperary defenders before shifting to his left and squeezing the ball inside the near post from a tight angle.
Tipperary’s forward then combined to work their way in behind the Armagh defence but with a great goal opportunity appearing to be on Quinlivan was happy enough to take his point and get Tipp off the mark.
Jamie Clarke was then able to show off his kicking skills from the turf as he pointed a left footed free which curled over Evan Comerford’s crossbar before Colin O’Riordain kicked a huge point for the visitors.
Tipp fought their way back into the game despite a lot of early Armagh pressure and were soon level as Conor Sweeney tallied his first point of the day from a free.
Armagh continued to work for their scores as Tony Kernan landed a big free with his right foot from the left hand side.
Another Tipp goal chance went begging prior to Conor Sweeney adding another free before a huge catch and claim in the middle of the field by Jamie Clarke set up Aaron Findon who was adjudged to have been fouled when he was bearing down on goal. Jamie Clarke took the penalty and sent the keeper the wrong way.
A late yellow for Finnian Moriarty was the last action of the first half.
Half Time: Armagh 1-04 Tipperary 0-04
Tipperary shot of the blocks with an immediate point from the throw in which was worked nicely to the midfielder O’Riordain who judged his kick perfectly.
Three more quick fire points for the Munster side, a free apiece for Sweeney and Barry Grogan and a direct run and score for O’Riordain, meant they took the lead for the first time in the game.
Robbie Keily was then called aside by match referee David Coldrick who gave the Aravale Rovers man a straight red card for an off the ball incident after consulting with his linesman.
This appeared to be the turning point as Armagh began to attack in numbers with Aidan Forker getting the Home side back on level terms.
An excellent sweeping move from Armagh was finished to the top left hand corner past the helpless Comberford. An emphatic finish by wing half back Mark Shields.
Aidan Forker picked up a yellow card before Armagh made two substitutions, Andy Mallon and Kevin Dyas replacing Finnian Moriarty and Sean Connell.
Another sweeping move from Armagh came to nothing before Sweeney added another point from a free.
Miceal McKenna and Paddy Codds received a yellow each as Stephen O’Brien sent over another score from distance.
Both Armagh and Tipperary made changes. Stephen Harold replacing sub Kevin Dyas, who collided with Tipperary’s keeper while Philip Austin came on for Ian Fahy.
Barry Grogan then kicked an inspirational point as Tipp levelled it once again before Tony Kernan made way for Ciaran O’Hanlon on the Armagh team.
Tipp pushed on as Stephen O’Brien added his second of the day before George Hannigan increased the Premier’s lead to two.
A series of changes for both home and away saw Ethan Rafferty replace goalscorer Mark Shields while Tipperary brought on Donnagh Leahy, Sean Flynn and Brian Mulvihill for Paddy Codd, George Hannigan and Barry Grogan.
Heading for the final minutes Tipperary seemed to be in complete control of the tempo despite Armagh possessing the numerical advantage.
Armagh persevered though and as the clock ticked into added time another attempt to break down the resolute Tipp defence was this time successful as the ball fell to Miceal McKenna who made it a one point game.
The Orchard midfield turned over the Tipperary kick out and the ball was eventually played to Jamie Clarke, who up until that point had been held scoreless for the second half.
There was a nervous intake of breath from the Athletic Grounds crowd as it was unclear whether referee Coldrick would blow his whistle following the restart but luckily enough for the Armagh fans there was enough time for one more attack.
The ball was moved along the half forward line before making its way into the hands of that man Clarke once again and the Cross man made no mistake and sent the crowd into raptures.
Armagh prevailed as one point winners despite some stubborn defending and excellent long range kicking from the visiting Tipperary side.
Kieran McGeeney’s side now have an away trip to Wexford on Febuary 8th to look forward to.
Final Score: Armagh 2-08 Tipperary 0-13
By Colm McGleenan
Armagh Team: T Harney, F Moriarty, C Vernon, M Murray, M Shields, C McKeever (c), S Connell, A Findon, S Campbell, E McVerry, M McKenna, A Forker, T Kernan, C Rafferty, J Clarke.
Subs Used: A Mallon, E Rafferty, S Harold, K Dyas, C O’Hanlon.
Tipperary Team: E Comerford, A Campbell, P Codd (c), A Morrissey, S Kennedy, P Acheson, R Kiely, C O’Riordain, S O’Brien, G Hannigan, B Grogan, B Fox, C Sweeney, M Quinlivan, I Fahy.
Subs Used: D Leahy, S Flynn, B Mulvihill, P Austin.
Article by Colm McGleenan