Armagh 2-10 Tyrone 2-15
When these sides last clashed outside of the McKenna Cup in the 2017 All-Ireland Quarter Final, it was a day to forget for the Armagh faithful.
A first half Peter Harte goal put an end to the game as a contest back then, and on Saturday evening, he threatened to do the same.
Harte rattled the back of the net to give the Red Hands an early 1-3 to 0-1 lead, but Armagh showed serious resilience to claw themselves back into the game.
The major turning point came in the 50th minute, when Rian O’Neill was hauled to the ground inside the square after good link up play with Conor Turbitt.
Last week’s goal scorer Stefan Campbell stepped up once again, but this time his effort was saved by the Tyrone netminder.
Had the Armagh captain raised a green flag, his side would have been four in front with the finishing line in sight.
Morgan’s save revived Tyrone and deflated Armagh, as the eventual victors outscored their hosts 1-5 to 0-2 in the final 20 minutes.
Kieran McGeeney was quick not to blame the Clan na Gael star, as “Stefan has pulled us out of the fire loads of times. When you get a penalty, you want to score them.
I think it probably was more, we weren’t as crisp with our hand passing and then I think losing five players of that calibre… you’re losing serious ball players”.
There were lots of positives for the Orchard County despite the result but the names on the injury list make for tough reading.
The whole full back line of Ryan Kennedy, Aidan Forker and James Morgan were slumped on the sideline before the half time whistle even sounded.
Both Kennedy and Forker left the ground in crutches while substitute Paddy Burns hoppled off the field of play before the game had finished.
It leaves serious question marks over Kieran McGeeney’s defensive options for next weekend when they host table-toppers Donegal.
Their forward unit continues to blossom though and Rian O’Neill played a crucial part in both of Armagh’s goals.
He’s unselfish pass allowed Jarly Og Burns to palm the ball into an empty net while his vision to pick out Conor Turbitt’s run in behind was a sight to behold.
‘Turbo’ still had some work to do, but his deft feint allowed him to round Niall Morgan and coolly slide the ball into the net.
Tyrone hold a few attacking aces themselves and the inclusion of Darragh Canavan and Darren McCurry to the starting line up helped them get over the line.
When ‘Dazzler’ is in this form he can be unplayable and the Edendork man knocked over seven points, including a ridiculous effort from close to the end line.
Canavan had a big part to play as well with his pass providing the assist to Mark Bradley’s goal directly after the second water break.
The visitors also had a goal ruled out when Paul Donaghy had been deemed to be in the square before the ball.
All in all, Armagh will be quite pleased with how they lived with Tyrone for long periods of the game and McGeeney was “extremely proud” with how his side performed.
“The amount of work and effort the boys put in on the pitch was phenomenal, you have to give them credit”.
Armagh Team: Blaine Hughes, Ryan Kennedy, Aidan Forker, James Morgan, Connaire Mackin, Aaron McKay, Ciaron O’Hanlon, Niall Grimley, Jarly Og Burns, Jemar Hall, Rian O’Neill, Greg McCabe, Rory Grugan, Oisin O’Neill, Stefan Campbell. Subs: Barry McCambridge for R. Kennedy, Ross McQuillan for J. Morgan, Paul Hughes for J. Hall, Paddy Burns for A. Forker, C. Turbitt for G. McCabe, Jason Duffy for S. Campbell