Armagh pay the penalty
● Bank of Ireland Dr. McKenna Cup 2019 Final Armagh 0-14 Tyrone 0-16
Armagh were edged out by Tyrone 0-16 to 0-14 in a very feisty Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup final in front of a bumper crowd at the Athletic Grounds. Defensive ill-discipline and a missed penalty were to prove the hosts undoing as referee Joe McQuillan brandished 3 red cards and issued another 11 yellows in an encounter that simmered from the outset and threatened to boil over on several occasions as the contest ended with 13 Armagh players and 14 for Tyrone on the field of play.
In Armagh’s defence I must say that I thought that Tyrone benefitted from a few ‘very soft frees’ from the Cavan official and from my vantage point both yellow cards issued to James Morgan were harsh. The fact that only 11 of the 30 scores recorded came from open play (Tyrone 6, Armagh 5) reflects the intensity of the encounter which from a management point of view was a good run-out before the opening round of the Allianz National Football League next weekend.
A high challenge by Connaire Mackin 3 minutes into the game brought the first yellow of the evening along with the first score of the game as Darren McCurry pointed the resulting free. Armagh having notched their first wide from Hall followed by a couple of efforts from Jamie Clarke and Rian O Neill dropping short into keeper Niall Morgan’s hands were level after Rory Grugan converted a free following a foul on Clarke. On 8 minutes Niall Grimley lofted over a “45” after O’Neill who should have offloaded the ball had his shot blocked and a minute later an off the ball foul on Clarke enabled Grimley to make it 3-1. Armagh were on top as Stefan Campbell fired over the first point from play immediately cancelled as McCurry punished a needless foul by Ruairi McCaughley to cut the deficit to double scores.
A third pointed Grimley free following a foul on Campbell put a green flag between them with 15 minutes of the half remaining, which were to be dominated by the Red Hands who came storming back into the game hitting 5 unanswered points from Cathal McShane, Niall Sludden, McCurry (free) and Sludden again with midfielder Declan McClure helping turn a 3 point deficit into a 2 point lead 7-5 after 28 minutes. A foul on Clarke yielded a sixth Armagh point as Grimley converted but a like score from the boot of McCurry, after Sludden appeared to dive restored Tyrone’s 2 point advantage.
A flare -up just before the break saw Aaron McKay, Greg McCabe (both Armagh) and Conall McCann (Tyrone) enter the referees notebook before a McCurry free (his 5th of the half) concluded the scoring as Tyrone went in with a 0-9 to 0-6 lead at half-time.
Kieran McGeeney made two interval changes as Jarly Og Burns and Joe McIlroy replaced Ryan McShane and Brendan Donaghy for the second half which saw Grimley carry on where he had left off by opening the scoring from a free following a foul on O’Neill. A first point from play by McCurry restored the 3 point advantage but a second from play from Campbell following a good run by Clarke put 2 between the teams. Goalkeeper Morgan stepped up to the plate pointing a long range free which was cancelled out 3 minutes later by a similar score from Grimley. Tyrone full-back Ronan McNamee ventured forward to split the uprights on 50 minutes as Charlie Vernon came on for Greg McCabe. Two minutes later Jamie Clarke from play opened his scoring account followed by points from O’Neill following a great run by Mackin and a Grugan free after Hall was fouled and the sides were back on level terms, 12 points apiece with 14 minutes left on the clock.
Free-taker McCurry once again did the business for Tyrone converting following an alleged foot block and then adding salt to the wounds by pointing the free which followed Morgan’s dismissal on 62 minutes. Armagh shrugged off the loss of Morgan to pile forward in search of scores and a golden goal chance was fashioned by Jarly Og and Campbell as his goal bound effort was adjudged to have been touched on the ground by a defender after the referee consulted with his umpire. Trailing by 2 points skipper Grugan saw his poor penalty fly over the crossbar to reduce the deficit to the minimum 0-14 to 0-13. Tyrone swept downfield and an off the ball incident after Armagh had conceded yet another silly free saw Ronan McNamee and Aaron Kay both received red cards before McCurry popped over his ninth point from a free. Six minutes of injury-time were signalled and Grugan left it a one-point game once again from a free after a foul on Jarly Og.The hitherto flawless Grimley then missed the chance to level before a Cathal McShane free from an offensive mark sealed Tyrone’s seventh title in eight years as Armagh paid the ultimate penalty-defeat and have to wait another year for a first success in the competition since 1994.
ARMAGH: Blaine Hughes; Connaire Mackin, Aaron McKay, James Morgan; Ruairi McCaughley, Brendan Donaghy, Gregory McCabe; Stephen Sheridan, Niall Grimley (0-5); Jemar Hall, Rory Grugan (0-5), Ryan McShane; Stefan Campbell (0-2), Rian O’Neill (0-1), Jamie Clarke (0-1).
Subs: Jarlath Og Burns for McShane (HT), Joe McElroy for Donaghy (HT), Charlie Vernon for McCabe (50), Jason Duffy for Clarke (60), Ross McQuillan for Hall (63)
TYRONE: Niall Morgan (0-1); Ciaran McLaughlin, Ronan McNamee (0-1), Liam Rafferty; Tiernan McCann, Aidan McCrory, Michael Cassidy; Conan Grugan, Declan McClure (0-1); Niall Sludden (0-2), Ronan O’Neill, Conal McCann; Darren McCurry (0-9), Peter Harte, Cathal McShane (0-2).
Subs: Conor Meyler for C McCann (43), Mattie Donnelly for Cassidy (43), Kieran McGeary for Rafferty (50), Darragh Canavan for O’Neill (51), Kyle Coney for Grugan (61).
REFEREE: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).