Tyrone book their place in final as first-half blitz stuns Armagh in Ulster U21 football final

Two first-half goals against Armagh helped Tyrone into the Ulster U21 final for the first time in three years last night.

Goals from Lee Brennan and Conor Meyler helped the Red Hands coast into a 2-6 to 0-1 half-time lead and despite some excellent free-taking from Armagh senior player Ethan Rafferty in the second half, they progressed comfortably to next week’s final against Donegal.

Last night’s semi-final was switched from Brewster Park to Kingspan Breffni Park due to an unplayable pitch in Enniskillen, but conditions were just as horrid in Cavan.

Tyrone adapted better to the wet, greasy surface and scored the first three points, all from play, from Ruairi McGlone, Kieran McGeary and Daniel McNulty in the opening 13 minutes.

All their good work was undone when Armagh’s Aidan Nugent collected a high ball into the square and swivelled brilliantly to shoot into the far corner of the net one minute later.

Tyrone responded well to the setback, with Lee Brennan replying instantly with 1-1.

He followed up a left-footed free with a well-taken goal, pulling on a loose ball on the ground and drilling it low into the corner beyond the Armagh goalkeeper.

Tyrone continued to assert their dominance when Omagh’s Conor Meyler pulled off a cheeky lob over Blaine Hughes for goal number two.

Meyler found himself in lots of space and spotted the keeper out of his goals, coolly chipping the ball over his head in the 21st minute.

Armagh only registered one point in the first half, a free from Ethan Rafferty in the 26th minute, leaving the orchard county trailing by 2-6 to 1-1 at the break.

Armagh’s best spell came in the third quarter when they reeled off three points in a row, two frees from Rafferty and a superb point by Ryan McShane.

Tyrone senior panellist Cathal McShane hit two nice points from distance to maintain the Red Hands’ comfortable lead.

Tyrone goalkeeper Sean Fox, who came on as a first-half sub for the seniors in the defeat to Donegal on Sunday, pulled off a superb flying save to his left from Ryan McShane’s fierce shot after 52 minutes. Jack Grugan pulled back an injury-time goal for Armagh.

Scorers for Tyrone

– L Brennan 1-2 (2f), C Meyler 1-0, D McNulty 0-4 (3f), K McGeary 0-2, C McShane 0-2, R McGlone 0-1, M Kavanagh 0-1

Scorers for Armagh

– J Grugan 1-1, A Nugent 1-0, E Rafferty 0-5 (5f), C O’Hanlon 0-1, R McShane 0-1

TYRONE:

S Fox; R Mullan, P Hampsey, F McGarrity; C McLaughlin, R Brennan, K McGeary; F Burns, C McShane; C Meyler, M Kavanagh, M Walsh; L Brennan, D McNulty, R McGlone

Subs:

R Kelly for McLaughlin (BC, 19), M Cassidy for Mullan (BC, 39), C Byrne for McGarrity (53), D Kavanagh for McGlone (53)

ARMAGH:

B Hughes; G McCabe, S Heffron, J Cosgrove; F Burns, D O’Neill, D Nugent; C O’Hanlon, E Rafferty; G Mackin, C Comiskey, C Mackin; A Nugent, C McKenna, R McShane

Subs:

N Grimley for McKenna (21), S Connell for Burns (22), P Campbell for O’Neill (30), M Murphy for G Mackin (HT), J Grugan for C Mackin (40), C Martin for Comiskey (55)

Referee:

Sean Laverty (Antrim)

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