Tyrone plunder the Orchard

This was the game the Ulster Championship had been waiting for, and who better to deliver it than these fiercest of rivals.

Tyrone plunder the Orchard

Tyrone won a rip-roaring contest at the Athletic Grounds for a variety of reasons, but on another day, a young, inexperienced, but talented Armagh side might have pulled it off.

The loss of Aaron Kernan through injury midway through, and the sending off of Kevin Dyas 20 minutes into the second-half had a significant bearing on the game.

Tyrone were, eventually, able to exploit these massive losses to get themselves over the line.

Despite the loss of a raft of top-class attackers, Mickey Harte’s side still managed to tally 19 points, a glowing endorsement of the depth of talent at the manager’s disposal, not to mention the versatility that his players carry.

Martin Penrose finished with an eight points haul, but once again it was the Red Hands’ ability to produce scores from a variety of sources that proved the key.

This game took no time at all to get to boiling point, with Armagh looking very much the part in the opening 10 minutes.

They struck an early blow in the ninth minute when debut boy Aidan Forker blasted in a superb goal, finishing clinically past Pascal McConnell after Kevin Dyas and Caolan Rafferty had combined smartly.

McConnell had already been called into emergency action, spreading himself to save brilliantly from Brian Mallon. Tyrone were shaken, but they knew from experience that matters could be sorted out and dealt with on their own terms, and that’s exactly what they did.

Colm Cavanagh and Joe McMahon provided the platform at midfield, with the former, always willing to gallop into advanced positions, floating over an excellent point.

The sell-out crowd of 16,418, was still waiting for Stephen O’Neill to weave his magic, and he answered the call with a sublime effort, clipped over after Ciarán McKeever was left sprawling.

That was just moments after Jamie Clarke had delighted home supporters with a wonderful effort from a right angle on the left, a score that sparked his colleagues into renewed action.

They went level with a Clarke free, but once again Tyrone stepped on the gas, with Mark Donnelly, Martin Penrose and corner back Dermot Carlin all chipping in with points for an 0-11 to 1-5 interval lead.

Penrose was now well into his stride and on his way to an eight points tally, knocking over two frees early in the second half, and by this time Armagh had lost defender Aaron Kernan to injury.

Nevertheless they managed to wrest midfield control away from Tyrone, with Kieran Toner and Malachy Mackin winning vital ball which was turned into scores by Jamie Clarke and substitute Gavin McParland, a huge addition to the attacking effort who contributed two exceptional points.

O’Neill was denied a goal by a clutch of diving bodies, but Penrose turned the loose ball over the bar to keep the margin relatively comfortable, and Armagh suffered another blow in the 55th minute when playmaker Kevin Dyas tackled Peter Harte high and picked up his second yellow card in the space of a minute.

Nonetheless, Armagh lifted the intensity of their game, and were level by the 66th minute when Brian Mallon thumped over a free from 50 metres.

Tyrone’s experience and ability to close out a game, however, carried them over the finish line. They were able to add four further points, including eye-catching scores from O’Neill and Peter Harte to sneak through to the last four.

Scorers for Armagh: A Forker 1-0, J Clarke 0-6 (2f), B Mallon 0-4 (4f), G McParland 0-2, K Dyas 0-1.

Scorers for Tyrone: M Penrose 0-8 (5f), S O’Neilll, P Harte, O Mulligan (1f), C Cavanagh 0-2 each, D Carlin, M Donnelly, Joe McMahon (f) 0-1 each.

Subs for Armagh: P Duffy for McKenna (18), G McParland for Kernan (h-t), J Hanratty for Forker (48), C Vernon for Moriarty (54), J Kingham for Mackin (57).

Subs for Tyrone: M Murphy for Justin McMahon (h-t), N McKenna for Mulligan (65), R McMenamin for McCarron (67), P McNeice for Donnelly (73).

Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).

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