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Red Hands pick off Orchard with ease

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Red Hands pick off Orchard with ease thumbnailAIDAN Forker breaks a two man Tyrone tackle.

IN January this year Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney set the target of reaching the last eight and while that objective was achieved Saturday's performance sullied that goal.

ARMAGH ...0-08
TYRONE ...3-17

The Orchard County knew they were coming up against a slick and assured opperater but in Croke Park they failed to turn up as Tyrone cruised their way into a semi-final showdown against All-Ireland Champions Dublin.

Armagh couldn't live with Tyrone's mobility and simply were outclassed in an anti-climax of a non-contest.

All week the game was built up to be a return to the intense battle of the early noughties but it never got close as Tyrone kept Armagh comfortably at arms-length.

The Orchard men failed to take their scores early on whereas Tyrone pointed with ease and never looked in trouble.

Tyrone's tackling was exceptional and they showed they are clearly two or three years further down in their line of development, which isn't surprising giving that the Red Hands are back-to-back Ulster Champions.

The Orchard boss has completed the third of his five-year term and I asked manager Kieran McGeeney on whether he judged the season a success, given his team reached his target of the last eight.

"We have shown a fair few chinks this year, we should have gotten out of Division Three but we didn't but we were scoring highly, we had chances to beat Down but we didn't and coming here today we were probably coming up against the best defensive unit in the country," said McGeeney.

"In terms of how they play that system. It shouldn't have taken us by surprise but we couldn't deal with it.

"It is a mixed bag but I don't think today reflects how good they are. That they found that system difficult to break down and in fairness every team that has went before them has found it difficult to break down as well.

"You have be able to move the ball quickly, you have to be able to commit men to attack and that's why some of our better forwards were easily suffocated because they didn't have men running off the shoulder.

"We showed glimpses of it for 20 minutes of the second half but again when the chances were there we didn't take them. If there is nothing then to fight for sometimes a team will lose heart." Indeed when Tyrone's Peter Harte converted his penalty at the Canal End, Armagh trailed by eight points with 15 minutes gone and the game was up.

The loss of the injured Andrew Murnin was massive.

Armagh lost their true target man, someone who could win primary possession, hold the ball up or lay off to Jamie Clarke, Gavin McParland or any supporting player.

Instead, Armagh left Clarke isolated up front and expected his wizardry to waltz through a wall of 14 bodies. Dromintee's Aaron McKay was on another loss. He grew into his defensive duties very quickly during the National League and also provided an explosive attacking threat and was ever-present in the Championship until Saturday, where an ankle injury ruled him out.

And coming up against a team like Tyrone they needed to be going in with their strongest team or at least try and take the game to them. And the fact that Armagh continued to sit back also frustrated the manager.

"We retracted into our shell a wee bit today and we missed easy chances and we ran into cul de sacs and I think we are a better team than what we showed but that's how it went," "We played in a certain way all year and maybe when you are missing one or two players that can have a bit of an effect on it.

"We didn't react well to the start, we wanted to move the ball quickly but we didn't and we got caught up. I didn't feel we committed enough men to the attack and we had just one or two going forward instead of threes and fours and that left them on their own and they got suffocated.

"Tyrone are very good at that and it is something they have adapted and have been working on for a while.

As a team Armagh is going to have to learn how to deal with that." The slick running midfielder Conall McCann gave Tyrone the lead in the opening minute. Armagh had chances to reply but captain Rory Grugan kicked short and then wide.

Two points as many minutes from the tricky Mark Bradley stretched Tyrone's lead as Stefan Campbell frustratingly kicked wide. Sean Cavanagh's converted free kept the Red Hand scores coming as Campbell was awarded Armagh's first free on 13 minutes.

It was relentless as Tiarnan McCann brilliantly ghosted forward to chip in with a point as the Armagh middle eight looked lost.

Tyrone pressed in kick-outs, bossed the middle, winning the breaking ball and hunted in powerful packs and Armagh couldn't live with them but the Orchard manager feels his men can benefit from a defeat like Saturday's.

"There is a difference in a style of play and when you haven't been used to it for quite a while, at that level it comes as a shock," McGeeney said.

"There are only small margins but they can add up to whole lot by the end and that is what happened. Any mistake they [Tyrone] just pounced on it and a 65 per cent shooting accuracy compared to 35 per cent, there is whole lot of things to add up.

"It wasn't a good day in the office but I do believe that we will learn from that." After Harte's spot-kick, Niall Grimley's converted free got Armagh off the mark on 18 minutes after Clarke was awarded only Armagh's second free of the afternoon.

Declan McClure tagged on another to Tyrone's increasing tally but Mark Shields drilled over before Campbell, Clarke and Ciaron O'Hanlon kicked wide.

In a well worked move, McParland, who was screaming for the lay-off, kicked a lovely 50-metre point into Hill 16.

But that was a rare gem in an otherwise poor day.

Shields' black card was further woe as Grugan's converted free gave Armagh a tally of only four points at the break.

Armagh 0-04 Tyrone 1-08

The Orchard team showed a bit of zip early in the second half and got the crowd a little excited, Forker pushed forward so too did Campbell, but with Mattie Donnelly and Colm Cavanagh marshalling defence, Armagh got little joy. Campbell and substitute Oisin O'Neill kicked wide and Tyrone punished as keeper Niall Morgan converted a free.

It was a kick in the teeth to Armagh and while players such as Brendan Donaghy were outstanding, Clarke made himself available for every ball but got little help and Charlie Vernon tried to make things happen, it simply wasn't happening for them as Tyrone didn't let it.

In the next half hour Armagh could only muster another three points, from Clarke and Grugan, whereas Tyrone strolled home with substitute David Mulgrew finishing top scorer with two goal and a point.

It was a Division Three team coming up against a Division One team and Armagh need to get out of that Division next season, in order to see the benefit in 2019.

Next season players such as Crossmaglen's young Rian O'Neill will come through the Academy to the senior squad and should give the attack a shot in the arm over the years.

Armagh went this season without Andy Mallon, arguably the best corner-back the county has ever had, as well as the talented and experienced Tony Kernan. But the return of James Morgan, Paul Hughes and Jamie Clarke was a massive boost and Armagh can build for the future and improve.

"I think they are a good bunch of fellas, they are young they have a lot to learn in terms of how games are won," said McGeeney.

"There is games within games and we are poor at that part of it but I do think there is football in them.

"Paul McGrane and Dennis Hollywood have a put together a good Academy structure and we need to be taking two or three players out of those every year.

" And I know that might be hard for some people to understand but seven Ulster titles in 120-years before a team came along and won seven in ten. It is not like we have a history to do it.

"In the modern day the fitness, the commitment and focus that is needed at this level is a lot. We have a small group that are willing to do that and that small group needs to get bigger." There is little time to lick wounds though as the Armagh Club Championships throws in this weekend.

Tyrone: Niall Morgan; Aidan McCrory, Ronan McNamee, Cathal McCarron; Tiernan McCann, Pádraig Hampsey, Peter Harte; Colm Cavanagh, Conall McCann; Declan McClure, Niall Sludden, Kieran McGeary; Mark Bradley, Sean Cavanagh, Matthew Donnelly.

Subs: David Mulgrew for Conall McCann 43 mins; Darren McCurry for McGeary 43 mins; Lee Brenan for McCrory 50 mins; Ronan O'Neill for Braldey 50 mins; Richard Donnelly for McClure 58 mins; Justin McMahon for Colm Cavanagh 59 mins.

Scorers for Tyrone: David Mulgrew 2-01; Peter Harte 1-02, 1-00 pen; Sean Cavanagh 0-04, 3f; Mark Bradley 0-03; Niall Morgan 0-02, 2f; Tiernan McCann, Colm Cavanagh, Declan McClure, Matthew Donnelly, Lee Brennan 0-01 each.

Armagh: Blaine Hughes; James Morgan, Charlie Vernon, Paul Hughes; Brendan Donaghy, Mark Shields, Joe McElroy; Stephen Sheridan, Niall Grimley; Rory Grugan, Ciaran O'Hanlon, Aidan Forker; Jamie Clarke, Gavin McParland, Stefan Campbell.

Subs: Oisin O'Neill for O'Hanlon 29 mins; Anthony Duffy for Shields 33 mins (black card); Ethan Rafferty for Campbell 45 mins; Ben Crealey for McParland 50 mins; Ciaran McKeever for Grimley 55 mins; Darren McKenna for Stephen Sheridan 58 mins (black card).

Scorers for Armagh: Rory Grugan 0-03, 2f; Jamie Clarke 0-2; Mark Shields, Gavin McParland each; Niall Grimley 0-01, 1f.

Referee: David Gough (Meath).

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