Resolute 'Orchard' bloom again

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Resolute 'Orchard' bloom again thumbnailJamie Clarke wheels away in delight after hitting the net

IT is three years since Armagh 'bloomed' to reach the last 12 in the All-Ireland championship but on Saturday a dominating second half performance carried them defiantly through the last 12 again.


This was a sweet victory for Armagh given they were denied league promotion earlier this season in a 'winner takes all' promotion clash with last season's All-Ireland semi-finalists, Tipperary and at home to boot.

This was a close, intense, fiery game with little to choose between the teams before, during and after the game but it ended with Armagh as deserving winners based on their greater resilience, persistence, perseverance, doggedness, ability to take scores and willingness to take calculated risks. Once again their use of and delivery by a more experienced bench of 'subs' proved very effective and telling.

Both teams would have been frustrated by the poor standard of refereeing by Paddy Neilan as his puzzling application of the 'advantage rule' plus many missed and ignored instances of blatant fouls contributed to the game being a disjointed, stop-start affair.

With the pitch in immaculate condition, Armagh could have had a dream start but Andrew Murnin's palmed effort from a Rory Grugan cross went just wide. Soon it looked as if Armagh could be in for a torrid time as Tipperary shot three quick wides.

An Armagh kick-out which went over the sideline paved the way for Kevin O'Halloran to open the scoring from a free for the hosts.

Tipperary with a strongish breeze at their back were further wasteful and they began in their rush make simple mistakes.

This gave Armagh time to settle and from a turnover Gregory McCabe burst straight through the middle to equalize. Soon after Tipperary 'keeper Ciaran Hendrik darted intelligently off his line to gather a Rory Grugan cross destined for Andy Murnin and thus deny a certain goal.

Tipperary countered quickly to re-establish a lead of 2-1. With Jamie Clarke becoming more prominent as orchestrator in chief, he won a free which Niall Grimley angled over for the equalizer.

Brendan Donaghy went off for a time because of a damaged finger and this was exploited by Tipperary as Jack Kennedy sneaked a point for the lead again. Soon after Conor Sweeney (free) extended the lead.

Armagh stirred with Mark Shields finding an elusive Gavin McParland whose high shot was pushed out from going over the bar by 'home' 'keeper, Hendrik. Niall Grimley, however, superbly landed a difficult '45'.

Soon after, controversy raged. Mark Shields fed Jamie Clarke whose brilliant pass saw Gavin Mc- Parland hold off defender Eddie Moloney to volley to the net.

The goal was 'scrubbed' as the referee called play back as the 'advantage' time had elapsed. Armagh, then, had to be content with a Rory Grugan equalizing 'tap over' free.

From the kick-out, straight away, Kevin O'Halloran gave Tipperary back the lead and Brian Fox built on it with both these points taken from runs straight through the centre of Armagh's defence, largely because Brendan Donaghy was pulled back deeper to ward off the 'twin' threat of Michael Quinlivan (obviously not fully fit being superbly marked by James Morgan).

Jamie Clarke won another free which Niall Grimley sent over long range with aplomb. Soon an Armagh goal chance went a-begging as Jamie Clarke and Andrew Murnin brilliantly set up Paul Hughes on the overlap but he fumbled the ball just as he prepared to volley home.

A free moved up for dissent then saw Tipperary go two up via Jack Kennedy's free. Armagh were determined to stay in contention, endorsed by Rory Grugan's incisive pass allowing Mark Shields to feed Niall Grimley for his fourth point of the half.

A clash of heads saw Gregory McCabe go off injured to be replaced by Joe McElroy. Aidan Forker, on receiving, spotted an opening and his excellent point had the sides level for the fourth time in the half.

Tipperary sensed they needed to use their wind advantage more before the break and did so confidently via a brace of Josh Keane and one from Liam Casey points to put the hosts three up.

Armagh ensured that they would stay in touch after Andrew Murnin's superb block and solo forward ended with Rory Grugan boosting Armagh's confidence, as captain's do with a point which saw them trail by just two 10-8 at the interval.

Given they were coping with the long ball in the first half, Armagh were determined to maximize wind advantage in the second half.

Their determination bore fruit 10 seconds into the second half as Stephen Sheridan's long ball had Jamie Clarke tap down for Gavin McParland to reduce the gap to a single point.

Moments later, Rory Grugan, clean through on goal, was 'blown' for over-carrying - 'NO WAY' was it anywhere near over-carrying.

Seeming disaster arrived soon after, with Philip Austin, Robbie Kiely, George Hannigan, and Colm Sweeney supplying Michael Quinlivan for a trademark left footed Tipperary goal. Tipperary were now a menacingly four points ahead, the biggest lead yet in the game.

In the first half, Tipperary had garnered easy scores backed by a strong wind with some Armagh players standing loosely 'off their man' while 'marking zones' rather than players.

In an instant, Armagh went 'man-to-man'. With Brendan Donaghy out further and Mark Shields stepping up to prevent the previous penetrative runs of centre half back, Robbie Kiely, Armagh assumed total control of the game.

Armagh, too, were pressing up high on Tipperary kick-outs and as a result the game was plugged mostly in Tipperary's half.

Tipperary would not score again for 18 minutes as Armagh's high intensity pressure and tenacious tackling kept the Orchard in constant attack mode.

In that time, Niall Grimley landed five points (four superbly from frees) and one audaciously with the outside of his boot from play. Stefan Campbell had come on also and he, Jamie and Gavin were sharp thorns in Tipperary's defence. 'Hawk-eye' was also used once to declare an Aidan Forker attempt narrowly wide. Niall's fifth score in the half brought the sides level again.

As Armagh paused for a breather and a Philip Austin foul, Josh Keane's free sneaked over the bar for the 'hosts' to lead again.

Armagh raised their game once more with Joe McElroy and Jamie Clarke working the opening for a glorious outside of the boot Gavin McParland point.

After Andrew Murnin turned the ball over, Rory Grugan's crowd set up Jamie Clarke for a first time Armagh lead point.

That lead was almost doubled as Brendan Donaghy's threaded pass had Stefan Campbell's shot come back off a post. A 'soft' Tipperary free arrived with Conor Sweeney duly equalizing and the thought struck that Armagh might rue the five points they'd hit in the previous nine minutes of full on dominating play.

Aidan Forker's set up pass to Stefan Campbell energized Armagh as they regained the lead with four minutes to go.

In the final minute of normal time came the goal which, on reflection, won the game for Armagh.

Stephen Sheridan won a 'turnover' to 'solo' athletically and at speed through the Tipperary ranks.

His pass to Gavin McParland was deftly passed on to Jamie Clarke.

The 'keeper came out fast and was going down to save by expecting Jamie to shoot with his left foot.

Jamie, however, dropped the ball to his left foot, but instead then flicked it to his right to calmly stroke the ball home off his right instep.

Armagh were four up now as nine minutes (seven minutes were announced) began. It became a tense, tense rearguard finish for Armagh. Conor Sweeney landed a free which was followed by a Josh Keane effort from play.

There were now only two points in it with three minutes (officially one minute) left to play.

Michael Quinlivan had two close in frees in that blocked by a packed Armagh defence, one producing a fruitless '45'. In between those frees, Rory Grugan initiated a move which ended with Stephen Sheridan sensibly fisting over a point for a three point cushion.

That left Philip Austin's late, late and more late pointed free mere consolation.

Tipperary: C Kennick, A Campbell, P Codd, E Moloney (L Boland 48, L McGrath 64), B Maher, R Kiely, J Feehan, L Casey, G Hannigan (P Austin h-t), J Keane, K O'Halloran (D Foley 70+2), B Fox, C Sweeney, M Quinlivan, J Kennedy (G Hannigan 48).

Scorers: M Quinlivan 1-0, J Keane 0-4 (2f), C Sweeney 0-3 (1f), L Casey, K O'Halloran 0-2 (1f), J Kennedy 0-2 (2f), B Fox, P Austin 0-1.

Wides: 7 Black card: J Kennedy (47).

Yellow cards: R Kiely (51), L Casey (70+7).

Armagh: B Hughes, G McCabe (J McElroy 28), J Morgan, C Vernon, B Donaghy, P Hughes, A Forker, S Sheridan, N Grimley, C O'Hanlon (S Campbell 47), M Shields, R Grugan, G McParland, A Murnin (E Rafferty 70+8), J Clarke (C McKeever 70+3).

Scorers: N Grimley 0-8 (5f, 1 '45'), J Clarke 1-1, G McParland, R Grugan (1f) 0-2, A Forker, S Sheridan, G McCabe, S Campbell 0-1.

Wides: 8 Yellow cards: J McElroy (35), C O'Hanlon (45), R Grugan (70+2), C McKeever (70+6).

Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon).


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