Red Hands slap Armagh
Tuesday, 21 January 2014
Tyrone 5-16 Armagh 0-07.
ARMAGH need to learn quickly that taking positives and plaudits from defeat only leads to future failure.
Wednesday night's Dr McKenna Cup performance against Tyrone was far removed from the heroic display given against Donegal only three days earlier.
The Orchard County looked na´ve and at times desperate. And while the Dr McKenna Cup is the perfect platform to experiment, the management took far too long to make the necessary adjustments to avoid an embarrassing defeat.
It is only two years ago that Armagh lost to Tyrone in the first round of the Ulster Championship, but they came away from that game with great gusto as the Orchard County had run the Red Hands close, and in the next Qualifier proceeded to disappoint and lose against Roscommon. Wednesday night bore the same hallmarks and Armagh manager Paul Grimley accepted it isn't good enough.
“It might be true that gallant defeats are good for nobody and we were too praiseworthy of ourselves of how we played on Sunday and certainly we didn't take that with us tonight," said Grimley.
“It is a huge disappointment but the one thing I won't do will make excuses nor will I attach the blame on anyone other than myself, because I am the manager and totally responsibly for the way the team plays and that's where the blame lies.
“It was a difficult lesson but I suppose the only consolation is that it is better getting it in January than down the road."
It was a painful defeat especially considering Armagh's began start to the game. Kyle Carragher scored a wonderful opening point after swift and intelligent interplay between Robbie Tasker and Jamie Clarke.
It was the type of vision, skill and courage that excites supporters and with Crossmaglen's Kyle Carragher and Jamie Clarke, Cullyhanna's Robbie Tasker and Mullaghbawn's Eugene McVerry in attack it looked a dynamic young attacking force but it proved a false dawn as Armagh fell flat and then drifted far into the abyss.
The Orchard County suffered an early blow as forward Eugene McVerry pulled his hamstring, with Mayobridge's Kevin O'Rourke replacing him.
Ethan Rafferty tapped over a free, Kyle Carragher a point on 25 minutes and Tony Kernan a superb 40-metre free from his hands and that was all Armagh managed to score in the first half, as Tyrone seized control.
They had nine different scorers in the opening half. Conor Grugan and Ronan O'Neill (2) edged the Red Hands ahead and on 16 minutes Ciaran McGinley bagged the opening goal.
Armagh's back-lines and midfield were overrun and Charlie Vernon was given a torrid time at full-back and he wasn't given much help from the team-mates as Tyrone rattled over further points from Emmett McKenna and Patrick McNeice and then the talented Mattie Donnelly drilled low at the near post for Tyrone's second goal.
But what was Armagh's solution to stem the tide? Replace corner forward Niall McConville with Brian Mallon. There were no natural defenders among Armagh substitutes and with Finnian Moriarty injured matters failed to improve as Tyrone's Donnelly, McNeice and Peter Harte added to the tally to give Tyrone a 2-09 to 0-04 at half-time.
The second half didn't get any better as within a minute of the restart PJ Lavery bagged another goal. Tasker did strike a rare point for Armagh but Tyrone went 19 points ahead when Peter Harte converted a penalty after Ethan Rafferty fouled.
Andy Mallon had moved into full-back and Mark Shields into the corner and they faired marginally better, or so it seemed before Lavery lashed in Tyrone's fifth goal.
Armagh brought on Ciaran Mac Iomhair, Johnny Hanratty, Ciaran McCooey, while Silverbridge's Seamus Kelly made his debut. Brian Mallon and Stefan Campbell tagged on rare points but it was simple a horrid day in the office.
The Armagh manager won't criticise his players publicly and as a boss he has stood by his men but Grimley refused to acknowledge that having a stretched squad as an excuse for the margin of defeat.
“When these fellas put on a Armagh jersey they are expected to stand up to it and anything I have to say to them I will say it in training," he said.
“We were playing against a slick outfit, with a lot of good players and obviously a top-class management and while I thought we closed the gap on Sunday (against Donegal) we completely reversed that tonight. "Any good or momentum or self belief that we would have gained from Sunday's game was probably undone tonight.
“They were just superior all over the pitch and really we were second to everything and the few chances we did get we really didn't capitalise on them whereas Tyrone did. Tonight we met a superior force."
Understandably the Orchard players were dispirited and while Armagh failed to perform Tyrone were excellent. They were quick moving, quick thinking, all playing to an understood game-plan, with accurate passing and soaring confidence.
In contrast Armagh were leaderless and players didn't seem to know their roles. Crossmaglen's Tony Kernan lined out at centre-half back, while Madden's Ciaran Rafferty, a natural forward with craft and ingenuity and Mark Shields who impressed attacking against Donegal, played along the half-back line.
It was an extremely young Armagh side and it is unfair to be overly harsh on players who perhaps didn't understand or receive clear instruction. And January is a time to for management learn from mistakes and try different formations and systems.
And the Armagh players can bounce back. Over the campaign Tasker and Oisin Mac Iomhair have equipped themselves well and they can play a part in making Armagh competitive again. And of course the college players are to return.
But having seen both Cavan and Armagh in action this month it is the Blues that are stealing a march on the Orchard before the Ulster Championship. First is the National League, where Armagh should welcome back the injured Ciaran McKeever, James Morgan, Finnian Moriarty and Eugene McVerry, and before the Championship Aaron Kernan and Paul McKeown could be fit again.
And after Wednesday's match the Armagh manager was in defiant mood.
"We have to go back to the blackboard and start again," said Grimley
“Nobody is talking about throwing the towel in, it is a long process, it is up and down and while I was in fairly good spirits after the Donegal game I am at a low tonight.
“The responsibility is with me."
TYRONE: Niall Morgan (0-1), Aidan McCracken, Ronan McNamee, Barry Tierney, Ciaran McGinley (1-0), Peter Harte (1-2), Ronan McNabb, Danny McBride (0-1), Conan Grugan (0-1), Emmett McKenna (0-2), Shay McGuigan (0-1), PJ Lavery (2-1), Patrick McNeice (0-2), Mattie Donnelly (1-1) and Ronan O'Neill (0-4). Subs used: Conor Clarke for Tierney, Patrick Quinn for Donnelly, Hugh Gallagher for McNabb, Kevin Campbell for McNamee, Kevin Gallagher for McGinley and Tiarnan McCann for Grugan.
ARMAGH: Philip McEvoy, Andy Mallon, Charlie Vernon, Paul Hughes, Mark Shields, T Kernan (0-1), Ciaran Rafferty, Ethen Rafferty (0-1), James Lavery, Eugene McVerry, Kyle Carragher (0-2), Stefan Campbell (0-1), Robbie Tasker (0-1), Jamie Clarke and Niall McConville. Subs: Kevin O'Rourke for McVerry, Brian Mallon (0-1) for McConville, Johnny Hanratty for Kernan, Ciaran MacIomhair for Carragher and Ciaran McCooey for Hughes.
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