Armagh dethrone Tyrone
O’fIAICH CUP Armagh 3-10 Tyrone 0-13
Inspired by a personal 2-3 from Man of the Match, Ethan Rafferty, 13 man Armagh recorded a 3-10 to 0-13 win over defending O’Fiaich Cup holders Tyrone at a well attended Oliver Plunkett Park, Crossmaglen.
Rafferty, on from the start in place of Stefan Campbell opened the scoring with a converted “45” after the Tyrone goalkeeper Mickey O’Neill had denied Conor White the opening goal. Impressive youngster Ben Crealey added point number two and a Rory Grugan free had Armagh 3 up inside 10 minutes. Inside 2 minutes the visitors were back on level terms as defenders Michael Cassidy and Harry Loughran both pointed, sandwiched in between half-forward Cahir McCullagh’s effort. As Tyrone introduced Peter Harte Armagh hit them with the opening goal as Oisin Mac Iomhair set up White who did not miss his second goal attempt. Ronan O’Neill opened his Tyrone account but Rafferty replied following good work by Joe McElroy. Armagh keeper Paddy Morrison went off injured replaced by Matthew McNiece and his first work was kick-out after O’Neill converted a free to leave it 1-4 to 0-5 on 27 minutes. Aidan Forker picked up a yellow card with O’Neill pointing the free and a minute later Tyrone levelled for the second time through midfielder Cathal McShane. Two wides from the visitors, just as 5 added minutes were posted were punished to the full by Rafferty who latched onto a Grugan pass to fire a rocket shot to the back of the net as Armagh replied with a goal for the second time, as Tyrone got back to parity. A foul on the pacey Mac Iomhair enabled Grugan complete the first half scoring as Armagh went to the dressing room 2-5 to 0-7 in front.
A foul on Sheridan enabled Rafferty to grab his third point on the re-start and immediately from the kick-out he was involved again as he ran through a Tyrone defence that had got their wires crossed and the Grange man netted with aplomb past a helpless goalkeeper, to open up an 8 point cushion. From a free O’Neill notched point number 8 for the holders as play on the field became scrappy and niggly with the yellow card being flashed frequently. Too frequently for Armgh’s White who picked up two in as many minutes and the home side were down to 14 with 22 minutes left on the clock. As the Tyrone wide count mounted a foul on the raiding Ciaran Higgins giving Mac Iomhair the chance to deservingly open his scoring account. With his number flasing and his name announced as being replaced Anto Duffy popped over a point to make it 3-8 to 0-8 as he bade farewell to proceedings but he was not the only Armagh player saying goodbye as a second yellow for Forkey had the Orchard County down to 13 men on 53 minutes. Following 3 wides on the trot Decclane McClure, with a brace of points ignited the Tyrone charge as 2 more O’Neill frees had the lead down to 3-8 to 0-12. Tyrone needed a goal and they came very close as Cassidy rattled the crossbar with a piledriver that was cleared to safety. Substitute Stefan Campbell got on the scoresheet and followed up with a couple of wides as Armagh defence held out solidly and corner-back Paul Haughes had ample time to saunter forward to receive a pass from another sub, Jamar Hall and then split the uprights.. Tyrone had the last score of the game with McNeice excellently tipping a Brennan goal attempt over the bar.
Silverware at the end after a very disappointing 2016 augurs well for 2017 with a lot of young talent showing well and givbing good accounts of themselves. A first O’Fiaich Cup in 20 years to my recollection for Armagh and a victory over Tyrone, what better way to start the festive season. Scorers- Armagh- E.Rafferty 2-3, Conor White 1-0, R. Grugan 0-2, B, Crealey 0-1, O MacIomhair 0-1, Anto Duffy 0-1, S. Campbell 0-1, P. Hughes 0-1
Tyrone: R O’Neill 0-6, D.McClure 0-2, L. Brennan 0-1, H. Loughran 0-1, C. McShane 0-1, C. McCullagh 0-1, M. Cassidy 0-1.