By Frank Brady
The GAA scheduled this Ulster derby as the opening game of the day Sunday at Gaelic Park, and in all fairness both Junior Football teams were ready for action at the appointed 12:30 p.m. time. However, the appointed referee failed to show up and a great dearth of officials didn’t help the matter either. Eventually, the game got under way with a skeleton crew and hardly a spectator in the stand to witness this exciting clash.
This brings up the question as to why games are scheduled this early, as the officials are still preoccupied with viewing the televised games from Ireland. Perhaps a later start would boost the number of officials as well as the number in attendance.
Tyrone started smartly with Peter McNamee registering their first point after 3 minutes. He quickly added another score that was destined for the net until it was deftly parried over the bar by keeper Declan Boyle.
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At this stage Tyrone seemed as if they were going to overrun the Orchard County, especially after some clever work in the corner by Kenny Cox set up Peter McNamee for a well-executed goal.
With only 7 minutes gone, Tyrone led by five points. But then Armagh’s Noel McPartland sliced his way through the Tyrone defense to crash home a good a goal to settle his team down. However, Tyrone responded with a nice effort from Barry McNamee.
Armagh soon began to find their rhythm and dictate the pace as Declan McGlinchey and McPartland picked off two more points. Tyrone stepped up the tempo with two McNamee points. Then it was tit for tat as both teams exchanged scores. Though trailing by 1-7 to 1-6 at the break, Armagh had fought back well to be just a point in the arrears after a poor start.
The introduction of the substitute Patrick McGuire added another dimension to an already lethal Armagh full forward line. This young Irish American possess good hands and good feet and looks to be a promising player developed through the Minor Board. However, the injury to Tyrone’s Aidan Traynor at center back compromised their defensive capabilities even further.
Armagh was first out of the blocks as a point from the McPartland put them level after three minutes. Mick Duffy with the first of his two points pushed Armagh out in front, a lead that they never relinquished. Collie Fearon’s dominance in the middle of the field resulted in a good supply to his forwards and they didn’t disappoint as they ran up a very impressive tally. Two second-half goals, one from sub Pat McGuire and the other from Damien Cushnahan looked like killer blows, but Tyrone battled back with the McNamee brothers keeping them in touch. A late goal strike by Conor Daly of Tyrone introduced a more competitive tone for the last few minutes. However, it was too little too late as time ran out. Both teams were very impressive in the scoring department, it certainly augurs well for Junior Football. A pity that it was almost spectator-free.
Man of the match: Noel McPartland.
Armagh: Donal Boyle, Peter McKeon, Lee Kelly, Gavin Trimble, Francis Sheridan, Shane Haughey, Louis Breslin, Collie Fearon, Francie Hotzer (0-1), Damien Cushnahan (0-1), Mick Duffy (0-2), Billy Grant, Danny McCann, Declan McGlinchey (0-2), NoelMcPartland (1-7). Sub: Pat McGuire (1-1).
Tyrone: Dermott Sullivan, Kevin Bennett, Shane Devlin, Stephen Campbell, Paul Conby, Aidan Traynor, Marlin McMallon, Pakie Hughes, Raymond Heagney (0-1), Charlie Candon, Peter McNamee (1-7), Ger Flanagan (0-1), Ken Cox, Conor Daly (0-1), Barry McNamee (0-3).