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Indisciplined Armagh lose out to Tyrone in Dr McKenna Cup opener

Armagh 1-10 v 1-12 Tyrone

Armagh saw three men sent off as they lost their opening game of the season to Tyrone in the Dr McKenna Cup at the Athletic Grounds.

In a feisty affair – Kieran McGeeney’s first game as manager – Ciaran McKeever, Finnian Moriarty and Aaron Findon were all shown red as the Red Hand county inflicted defeat thanks to two injury times points from Cathal McShane and Darren McCurry.

Armagh, discipline aside, can feel aggrieved not to have come away with at least a draw after some excellent performances, most notably from forward Micheal McKenna, but it was not to be, as the numerical advantage eventually told.

When the game eventually got started, after a 30 minute delay due to crowds, it was Tyrone who opened up the scoring with Sean Cavanagh hitting his first free of the game within the opening two minutes of play.

Micheal McKenna and Gavin McParland responded in kind for Armagh with quick-fire scores to put the hosts one up early on.

The game then spiced up on nine minutes when a heated scuffle resulted in Tyrone’s Colm Cavanagh and Armagh’s Ciaran McKeever receiving their marching orders.

That incident really set the tone for a feisty game as the referee rarely had his cards in his pocket for longer than 10 minutes after that – Tyrone’s Ryan McKenna saw black for a foul on his Armagh namesake.

Sean Cavanagh levelled matters on two occasions shortly after with points (one free) either side of a Eugene McVerry score.

McGeeney’s men then asserted some control on the game, with some marvellous defensive work, notably from frowards McKenna and Stefan Campbell, who pulled off an audacious tackle dispossessing Kyle Coney from behind.

Ethan Rafferty restored Armagh’s lead before McVerry and McKenna extended the gap to three points – Michael Murray instrumental in the Grange man’s point.

However, Tyrone soon arrested their flailing influence in the game and should have been level moments later only for Niall Geogehan in the Armagh goal to pull off a great save.

Darren McCurry added a 45′ for Tyrone shortly before a Mark Shields’ effort on goal was well stopped by Niall Morgan at the opposite end.

Cavanagh added another free for the visitors to leave the scores at 6-5 in Armagh’s favour at the break.

Crossmaglen duo Jamie Clarke and Tony Kernan were both introduced at the break for McParland and Rafferty and it was Kernan who assisted Stefan Forker for the first score of the second half to put them two points ahead.

Armagh were then reduced to 13 men when Finnian Moriarty received a second yellow card for a high tackle. Sean Cavanagh took the deficit to a single point with the resulting free.

After a few changes and disruption to the game, man-of-the-match McKenna added a fantastic score to ease Armagh’s growing woes 14 minutes into the second half, but Tyrone responded within 90 seconds with a McCurry free, after goalkeeper Geoghegan was forced to leave the field through injury.

Tony Kernan then added arguably the score of the game with a magnificent effort from out wide on the left but that two point lead  quickly evaporated with a Tyrone goal. A brilliantly worked move, out from the back, ended with corner back Aidan McCrory blasting past substitute goalkeeper Matthew McNeice.

Armagh weren’t to lie down as McVerry pointed with a free from the hands that looped between the posts to level the scores up sixteen minutes from time.

And McVerry was at it again minutes later when he rattled the Tyrone goal after a superb dinked pass from Lurgan man Niall McConville. An excellent goal that put Armagh in the driving seat in the closing stages despite being a man light.

McCurry added a couple of points (one free) in quick succession before Peter Hughes levelled things up for Tyrone with six minutes to go – the visitors’ numerical advantage telling.

And it got even worse for Armagh as their indiscipline continued with midfielder Aaron Findon seeing red for an incident off the ball. The referee showed no hesitation in sending the big St Peter’s man to the line and with it ending Armagh’s hopes of victory.

And Tyrone made the most of their extra two men but only managed to retake the lead in the 70th minute through substitute Cathal McShane.

Darren McCurry added another free deep into injury time to give 14-man Tyrone a two point victory of 12-man Armagh.

Armagh now travel to Creggan to play Antrim next Sunday.

ARMAGH: N. Geoghegan (M. McNeice), M.McConville, S. Sheridan (D. McKenna), M. Murray, M. Shields, F. Moriarty, C. McKeever, A. Findon, S. Campbell, S. Forker, M. McKenna, E. McVerry, G. McParland (J. Clarke), E. Rafferty (T. Kernan), N. McConville

TYRONE: N. Morgan; A. McCrory, R.McNamee, C. McCarron, T. McCann, R.McKenna, P. Harte, C. Cavanagh, P. McNulty, E. McKenna, K.Coney, P.Hughes, D.McCurry, S.Cavanagh, S.McGuigan

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