Completely Outclassed

August 7, 2017

All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final Tyrone 3-17 Armagh 0-8

The eagerly awaited first championship clash since 2014 between arch rivals, defending Ulster Champions Tyrone and four time qualifiers winners Armagh was a hugely disappointing one sided encounter, as Division One side Tyrone showed the difference in class between them and their Division Three opponents.

In a match that produced one red, 7 yellow and 3 Black cards there was no real intensity, feistyness or physicality one usually associates with the meetings of Tyrone and Armagh going by many a previous battle between the two. A week earlier at the same venue Armagh shot 1-14 from play and had 10 different scorers as they knocked out Kildare 1-17 to 0-17 having led by doubles scores 6-3 after 18 minutes. A week later eighteen minutes into the Tyrone game the contest was over and the writing was on the wall as Tyrone led 1-5 to nil with Armagh’s shooting boots left at home, the only surprise of the opening half was that despite that terrific opening scoring burst from Tyrone they only led 1-8 to 0-4 at the short whistle.

Armagh needed a fast start to the second half but having waited 19 minutes in the first half for an opening score, a further 12 would have elapsed in the second before they opened their account by which time Tyrone had stretched their lead to 9 points 1-10 to 0-4. Mickey Harte and his backroom team had fully digested what they had seen from Armagh the previous week and posed all sorts of problems for goalkeeper Blaine Hughes who had excelled in finding his men against Kildare struggled to cope with the Tyrone man marking from his kick-outs.

The Red Hands didn’t waste any time in putting their finely-tuned game plan into practice as Armagh struggled to gain any sort of foothold in the game, Tyrone dominated the possession stakes with a well rehearsed counter attacking strategy which left their opponents struggling in all sectors of the field.

Tyrone limited Jamie Clarke to 1 point from play.

Colm Cavanagh opened the scoring in the first minute with the elusive Mark Bradley (2), Sean Cavanagh (free) and Tiarnan McCann all hitting the target before Cavanagh got his hand to a short Hughes kick-out which enabled Harte to pick up possession and feed Bradley who won a penalty. Peter Harte sent the keeper the wrong way as he helped Tyrone into an 8 point lead with his calm finish. A Niall Grimley converted free following a foul on the well contained Jamie Clarke opened the Orchard account but the remainder of the half saw the sides add only 3 points each to their first half totals with Armagh just managing 2 points from play in that opening half.

Things got worse for Armagh in the second half as David Mulgrew left out of the starting team despite being named, stamped his card for a starting berth against the Dubs in the semi-final as he helped himself to 2-1 with 55th and 63 minute goals. It was all one-way traffic as the Orchard County struggled to find any chink in Tyrone’s defensive armour as the gulf in class between the two teams grew even greater as the match progressed. Six Armagh substitutions failed to make any impact on proceedings with 3 black cards leaving them with 14 men like Tyrone who had Cathal McCarron dismissed for a second yellow card offence late on.

Kieran McGeeney and his backroom team will be at a loss as to how this result could have happened as an 18 point win was even beyond the wildest dreams of any Red Hand supporters. The Orchard preparations for the quarter-final were disrupted once Andrew Murnin, the go to man in the forwards was unable to start due to an injury picked up against Kildare and a second switch saw Cairon O’Hanlon start in place of Aaron McKay. Armagh are a relatively young side and had not come up against anything like they faced in Tyrone, in their previous 5 championship outings this year. Tyrone showed why they are serious contenders for the title as they provided Armagh with a reality check as to just how far they and some 27 other counties are behind “the real top teams” As disappointed Armagh supporters reflect on this loss to Tyrone, spare a thought for the man hours and sacrifices put in by the players and management, who on the day found a team who were just too good for them. Whilst they all may not make the decision to go back to the coal face to start all over again their hurt is more than ours.

Charlie Vernon breaks clear from his Tyrone markers.

The biggest regret for Armagh 2017 will not be this quarter-final loss to Tyrone but the losing out on promotion from Division Three to Tipperary. You need to be coming up against the higher intensity, defensively geared challenges posed by the teams in the higher divisions, as the gap between the elite few at the very top widens. Division One teams are struggling to cope with the top four so how can Division Three teams expected to fare any better. Armagh reached the last 8 in the race for Sam which is a step in the right direction which needs to be built on by promotion in the league next year followed by a place in next year’s “Super 8”. The game has evolved to a new level where the “system” with supreme fitness levels applicable and no restrictions on player movement has become far more important then harnessing individual talent.

Stefan Campbell claims the high ball.

Armagh – B Hughes; J Morgan, C Vernon, P Hughes; B Donaghy, M Shields (0-1), J McElroy; S Sheridan, N Grimley (0-1f); R Grugan (0-3, 2f), C O’Hanlon, A Forker; J Clarke (0-2), G McParland (0-1), S Campbell. Subs: O O’Neill for C O’Hanlon, A Duffy for M Shields (BC), E Rafferty for S Campbell, B Crealey for G McParland, C McKeever for N Grimley, D McKenna for S Sheridan (BC).

Tyrone – N Morgan (0-2f); A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron; T McCann (0-1), P Hampsey, P Harte (1-2, 1-0pen); C Cavanagh (0-1), C McCann; D McClure (0-1), N Sludden, K McGeary; M Bradley (0-3), S Cavanagh (0-4, 3f), M Donnelly (0-1). Subs: D Mulgrew (2-1) for C McCann, D McCurry for K McGeary, L Brennan (0-1) for A McCrory, R O’Neill for M Bradley, R Donnelly for D McClure, J McMahon for C Cavanagh.

Ref: David Gough (Meath).

Midfield Action from Croker Clash.