Dramatic derby leveller renews belief in Armagh

Tyrone 0-13 Armagh 1-10: A precious point plundered in the dying embers of a dramatic Ulster derby could prove the salvation of struggling Armagh.

Dramatic derby leveller renews belief in Armagh

Substitute Niall Grimley came off the bench to punch to the net in the fourth minute of stoppage time for an unlikely draw and an opportunity to side-step what had looked certain relegation.

Kieran McGeeney’s side will need to beat Derry next weekend to avoid the drop, but they will face the Oak Leafers with renewed belief following their courageous comeback at Healy Park.

“It takes a wee bit of luck, those balls can go anywhere,” said McGeeeney.

“But I was happy in the fact the fellas kept fighting, when you are competing against Tyrone, I think everybody would agree they are one of the five best teams in the country on their day.

“They probably felt they played below par, but it’s great to be able to mix with that kind of company and get something out of it.”

The Armagh boss rejected suggestions that the draw should feel more like a victory.

“Nah, I wouldn’t say it felt like a victory but it definitely felt like a point. I think they have proved over the last few weeks that they can compete and as more and more players are coming back there is more competition.”

Mickey Harte’s side had already secured promotion, and he admitted that this could have been a factor in their failure to close out the game.

“Given the fact that they are already in the final, to raise themselves to the level that they needed to go to, it’s a big ask of them,” said the Tyrone manager.

“We knew that the team that needs a goal are going to pump in that high ball, and we had to deal with a couple of them before that, and I suppose the more they came in like that, the gamble is that always one of them is going to work, and it worked for them.

“So the desire had to be there for Armagh to want that, and it was there, and you have to hand the credit to them. They fought to the bitter end, and I suppose they probably desired that one point more than we desired the two.”

Tyrone were typically efficient on the counter-attack, easing into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead with a couple of Ronan O’Neill scores, and forcing their opponents to work the ball laterally as they funnelled players back in a packed defensive strategy.

But Armagh were able to win frees, which Stefan Campbell despatched, and they managed to carve the openings for scores from play from Colm Watters and Aidan Forker.

Watters’ second strike levelled the scores late in the opening quarter, but spectacular scores from Richie Donnelly and Connor McAliskey saw the home side reach the break with an 0-8 to 0-6 lead.

Campbell and O’Neill swapped scores early in the second half, and despite playing into the driving wind and rain, Armagh continued to test Tyrone’s resistance.

However, it was beginning to look bleak for the Orchard when Darren McCurry opened up a four-point lead, and Watters was sent off after a second yellow card 12 minutes from the end.

However, Armagh refused to surrender. They replaced top scorer and place kicker Campbell and went route one in search of the vital goal, and finally hit the jackpot when substitutes Tony Kernan and Grimley combined to hit the net right at the death.

Scorers for Tyrone:

R O’Neill (0-5, 3 frees); C McAliskey (0-3); D McCurry (2f), R Donnelly (0-2 each); M Bradley (0-1).

Scorers for Armagh:

S Campbell (0-6 (5f, 1 ’45); N Grimley (1-0); C Watters (0-2); A Forker, T Kernan (0-1 each).

TYRONE:

N Morgan, A McCrory, P Hampsey, C McCarron, N Sludden, R Brennan, T McCann, C Cavanagh, M Donnelly, P Harte, R O’Neill, R Donnelly, D McCurry, S Cavanagh, C McAliskey.

Subs:

M Bradley for Harte (5), B Tierney for Sludden (51), Conall McCann for McAliskey (56), P McNulty for R Donnelly 59).

ARMAGH:

P Morrison, A Mallon, C Vernon, S Heffron, M Shields, S Connell, A Forker, J McElroy, E Rafferty, R Grugan, M McKenna, C O’Hanlon, C Watters, S Campbell, G McParland.

Subs:

T Kernan for O’Hanlon (h-t), N Grimley for Rafferty (55), S Forker for McPaland (59), A Findon for McKenna (63), J Hall for Campbell 68).

Referee:

P Neilan (Roscommon).

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