Armagh hurlers finished off their league campaign with a three point win over Tyrone on Saturday in the Athletic grounds. The tie will be repeated in two weeks’ time at the same venue as the sides will meet again in the Nicky Rackard championship. Although Sligo had already won promotion having beaten both Armagh and Tyrone, this game was far from a dead rubber with the sides providing a tight and exciting encounter in front of a restricted crowd in the Athletic Grounds.
The game got off to a familiar start for Armagh with Fionntán Donnelly continuing his accurate form from the dead ball, converting a couple of scores early on. Tyrone responded with two through Brian McGurk from play and Cain Ferguson taking over Tyrone’s free duties. Armagh pushed ahead then with a goal finished by Danny Magee. Stevie McKearney won the ball at half forward and made a great run through with his shot coming off the post, but Magee was on hand to finish to the net after 6 minutes. Tyrone responded well with two Ferguson dead ball efforts either side of a Michael Little point cancelling out the three pointer, but Armagh pushed on again with a superb catch and finish from Stevie McKearney followed up by a free from Donnelly. Frees were traded as Armagh struggled to pull ahead and it took a great save from Simon Doherty to keep the home side ahead.
The free takers again added to their tallies, before Paddy McBride hit a fine score from play. Tyrone’s Damien Casey got on the scoresheet after 27 minutes and a further Ferguson free brought the margin down to one again. Magee, Donnelly and Eoin McGuinness added further scores but Tyrone kepy in touch through Ferguson and a good effort from Chris Kearns. Fionntán Donnelly picked out a great pass to put Mark McClatchey through for a point and one apiece for the free takers gave Armagh a three point advantage at the short whistle.
Ard Mhacha 1-13 Tír Eoghain 0-13
Within seconds of the restart, Donnelly hit one from play after Petey McKearney won the throw-in, but an effort from the Tyrone back line fell to the net from a slight deflection followed by a Ferguson free had the sides level again. Donnelly hit a free and Petey McKearney fired over a great score before a five minute period of wastefulness for both sides. Tyrone missed three or four frees, albeit handily awarded ones. Tyrone’s Ciarán Lagan won the ball, passed two Armagh defenders and struck between the posts, Damien Casey took advantage of a free and Brian McGurk added a third for the visitors to put them ahead for the first time.
Eoin McGuinness responded and a neatly struck sideline cut found Tiarnán O’Neill who restored the lead with his first touch, having just been introduced. A long range effort from Lorcán Devlin met with the approval of the Tyrone bench and support, but McGuinness and Fionntán Donnelly steadied any Armagh nerves. Cain Ferguson got one from play, but Donnelly converted three further frees, with Shaun Toal also firing over to leave five in it in time added on. The visitors got a consolation goal from CJ McGourty and as they lobbed the ball into the square in search of a goal to level it, the Armagh rearguard stood strong and repelled the Tyrone attack to earn the two points on the day.
So it’s back to the Athletic Grounds for both sides in a fortnight’s time to do the same again. Next time, the stakes are slightly higher with a place in the next round of the Nicky Rackard semi-finals awaiting the winners.
Armagh: Simon Doherty, Ciarán Clifford, Tiarnán Nevin, Reece Magee, Paudie Lappin, Aaron Fox, Dillon Fox, Petey McKearney 0-2, Odhrán Curry, Fionntán Donnelly 0-14, Paddy McBride 0-1, Mark McClatchey 0-1, Stevie McKearney 0-1, Eoin McGuinness 0-3, Danny Magee 1-1
Subs used: Shaun Toal 0-1, Artie McGuinness, Tiarnán O’Neill 0-1, Jim Shortt