Grimley goal grabs vital point

March 29, 2016

Allianz FL Division 2 Tyrone 0-13 Armagh 1-10

Distraught a fortnight ago when Galway grabbed a late equalising goal to deny Armagh a precious league point, elation on Saturday night when Niall Grimley fisted home a goal to salvage a precious league point at Healy Park. At the time of going to press because of the holiday weekend the 1-10 to 0-13 draw with Tyrone has edged Armagh a point clear of the relegation places with the results of the other three games in Division Two yet to be considered. The point dropped may have spoiled the already promoted home sides 100% record but the one gained gives Armagh a bit of breathing space as they face a final home game with Derry next Sunday.

The clash between the Ulster rivals, sitting at opposite ends of the league table, was played in dreadful weather with driving rain and a howling wind making for treacherous underfoot conditions but the weather or conditions did not damped the enthusiasm amongst the over 4,000 strong crowd.

Armagh had first half advantage of the strong wind but were behind inside 20 seconds as Ronan O’Neill (his team’s top scorer with 0-5) fisted over the game’s opening score. Armagh’s chief marksman Stefan Campbell (0-6) equalized with the first of his 5 pointed frees, his sixth score was a converted “45” O’Neill and Richard Donnelly stretched the home lead to 3-1 before impressive Armagh forwards Colm Watters and Conor McAliskey traded points. The visitors were quickly back on level terms, with points from Aidan Forker and Watters. On 21 minutes O’Neill regained the lead for Tyrone which was then doubled by a Donnelly score. Two Campbell frees kept Armagh in touch but it was McAliskey who had the final say, taking his first half tally to 3 from play with a brace of points that helped Tyrone leads 8-6 at the short whistle. Armagh had hit 5 wides in the wind assisted opening half whilst the economical hosts had their first wide of the game when goalkeeper Niall Morgan’s long-range free drifted wide in injury time.

Wind assisted, a Tyrone victory looked on the cards as the second half commenced but they did not kill off the game when in the ascendency as a battling Armagh battled bravely against all the odds in the second half. The respective team’s top scorers O’Neill and Campbell shared the opening for points of the half with the opening score of the half from O’Neill giving Tyrone a 3 point cushion for the first time in the game.  A well contained Darren McCurry soon left his mark on the game as the left-footed free taker lofted over a brace of frees to give Tyrone a 4 point cushion 12-8 on 58 minutes. The Armagh goose looked cooked shortly afterwards as they lost Colm Watters to a second yellow. Instead of killing off the game Tyrone tried keep ball and a bit of show boating and paid the price. Second half substitute Tony Kernan was to play a pivotal role for Armagh. The Cross Rangers player lofted over a point from play his team’s first score from play for 47 minutes to reduce the deficit to a green flag. Armagh’s hopes of a goal looked to have passed as another substitute Jamar Hall saw his effort scrambled clear. Just as it looked as if Tyrone had weathered the storm they were hit with the sucker-punch.

Tony Kernan lobbed a high ball into the square in the 73rd minute and second half substitute Niall Grimley got the last touch to flick it into the net much to the delight of the travelling bench and supporters. Having seen his side denied a vital point in the fight against relegation by Galway, Kieran McGeeney will be delighted with his side’s fighting spirit and the fact that they never gave in, they really kept going and were rightly rewarded in the end.

As previously mentioned, results to come will see how things develop ahead of the final home game with Derry. But a third draw on the trot against Derry might be enough to ensure Armagh’s second division survival.

TYRONE: N Morgan; A McCrory, P Hampsey, C McCarron; N Sludden, R Brennan, T McCann; C Cavanagh, M Donnelly; P Harte, R O’Neill 0-5 (3f), R Donnelly 0-2; D McCurry 0-2 (2f), S Cavanagh, C McAliskey 0-3

Subs: M Bradley 0-1 for Harte (5), B Tierney for Sludden (52), C McCann for McAliskey (57), P McNulty for R Donnelly (62)

ARMAGH: P Morrison; A Mallon, C Vernon, S Heffron; M Shields, S Connell, A Forker 0-1; J McElroy, E Rafferty; R Grugan, M McKenna, C O’Hanlon; C Watters 0-2, S Campbell 0-6 (5f, one ’45’), G McParland

Subs: T Kernan 0-1 for O’Hanlon (HT), N Grimley 1-0 for Rafferty (58), A Findon for McKenna (65), J Hall for Campbell (69)

REFEREE: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon)