Armagh heroics not quite enough
ARMAGH 0-11 TYRONE 1-9
Richard Bullick in Inniskeen
A hotly-disputed refereeing decision proved vital as an inspired Armagh missed out on a deserved victory over Tyrone in a pulsating Ulster Championship semi-final in Inniskeen.
The bitter rivals served up an absolute thriller which Tyrone eventually edged by the minimum margin but the biggest talking point on Sunday night was the disallowed goal which cost Armagh dear.
Although the ball ended up in the Tyrone net early in the last quarter, Down referee Gavin Corrigan adjudged an Armagh player to have encroached on the square even though he was poorly placed to make such a decision.
On an evening when their superb performance made light of the two division difference between these teams, the Orchard crew carved out sufficient chances to claim a worthy win but ultimately couldn’t convert enough.
But by easily living with the intensity, tempo, physicality and big game experience of top flight Tyrone, last year’s All Ireland Intermediate champions showed that they are equipped for senior football.
Had the Armagh goal stood, they would have won on the strength of scoring more points than Tyrone, who were only able to raise the white flag three times throughout the second half in spite of the wind dropping.
So the Orchard defence can be pleased with their evening’s work, the formidable duo of Caroline O’Hanlon and Sinead McCleary predictably rose to the occasion and Armagh also looked dangerous in attack.
Young subs Siobhan Mackle and Ciara Lennon added to the threat when introduced in the second half so it was a generally encouraging evening and this was a much improved performance compared to the National League final against Down.
If Armagh had showed similar purpose, urgency and conviction in Parnell Park last month they would have some silverware in the bag already this year but James Daly’s side now go into the All Ireland qualifiers with a decent chance of making the quarter-finals.
Another positive was the return following a long lay-off due to injury of captain Mags McAlinden and the skipper scored two points as did the woman who has replaced her as the team’s right-footed free-taker, McCleary.
All Star O’Hanlon led the way with four scores while Fionnuala McKenna, Kelly Mallon and twinkle-toed sub Siobhan Mackle chipped in with a point apiece.
As the earlier storm started to clear, Tyrone drew first blood but Armagh got the next three points through a rapid pair of McCleary frees and a Mallon point from play.
Tyrone got back on level terms but McAlinden rounded off great approach play by Caitlin Malone and O’Hanlon sent over her first point to restore the underdogs’ two-point advantage before Cathy Donnelly’s goal swung the game back in the team in white’s favour.
Three times in the first half, Armagh were threatening to score only for the move to break down or the referee fail to punish a foul and Tyrone raced upfield to capitalise with a point of their own.
Young McKenna got Armagh’s sixth point of the first half in response to a score from opposing skipper Gemma Begley but the Donnelly sisters, Cathy and Joline, pointed to send Tyrone in at half-time a goal to the good.
Armagh began brightly after the interval, though an O’Hanlon free and McAlinden point was scant reward for a prolonged period of dominance and the Donnelly duo cancelled those two scores out in the space of a minute late in the third quarter.
Mackle reduced the arrears to two but then came the controversial square-ball decision against the same player and Begley got what would prove to be Tyrone’s last score in the 51st minute.
O’Hanlon’s third and fourth point set up a frenetic finale and Armagh had their chances during nearly nine minutes of injury-time but the best fell to substitute defender Danielle Morgan who hit it wide and Tyrone just survived.
ARMAGH: K Daly; C Morgan, L Brown, S Marley; S McCoy, N Marley, C McCann; C O’Hanlon (0-4, 1f), S McCleary (0-2, 2f); S Reel, F McKenna (0-1), C Malone; M Tennyson, M McAlinden (capt; 0-2), K Mallon (0-1). Subs – S Mackle (0-1) for McCoy (h/t), C Lennon for Mallon (43), D Morgan for Malone (51), C O’Hare for Lennon (temp 63-66).
TYRONE: S Lynch; T McLaughlin, L McGillion, S McLaughlin; M Donnelly, M McMenamin, N Woods; A McShane, E Hegarty; J Donnelly (0-3, 1f), S Quinn, C Donnelly (1-3); N Donnelly, ML McGirr (0-1), G Begley (capt; 0-2, 1f). Subs – O O’Neill for N Donnelly (h/t).
Referee: Gavin Corrigan (Down).
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