Tyrone are still unbeaten this season, but on Saturday night at Healy Park they dropped their first point of the league campaign when visitors Armagh swopped for a dramatic injury time goal.
In a game played in dreadful conditions throughout, the home side looked to be well on their way to a sixth straight win in the league when they held a four point lead with opponents Armagh down to fourteen men, corner forward Colm Watters being dismissed in the 59th minute for a second booking.
Armagh though are battling for their Division Two lives and that was shown by their refusal to accept defeat. They got their reward deep into injury time when substitute Niall Grimley flicked a high delivery in to the back of the net.
The visitors’ greater need to get something from the game no doubt stood to them against a Tyrone side who had already secured promotion. However, the manner in which they failed to close out the game will have hurt the Red Hands and they will be eager to return to winning ways at Fermanagh this weekend.
The weather conditions made life difficult for both sides although they are to be commended for the quality of the fare that they served up. The home side had the lead after only twenty seconds via a fisted point for leading marksman Ronan O’Neill and by the 10th minute they were 0-3 to 0-1 in front with Richard Donnelly also on target.
Watters narrowed the gap with a fine score for Armagh, but Tyrone continued to look the better side with the lively Connor McAliskey getting the first of his three points in the opening period. By the end of the opening quarter of an hour Armagh had fought back to level things at 0-4 apiece with wing back Aidan Forker and Watters the men on target.
The visitors had their chances to take the lead in the first half, but they failed to take them as they hit five wides to their opponents’ one.
A long range free from O’Neill put Tyrone back in front before Donnelly weighed in with a beauty from distance from play.
After missing a couple of frees Stefan Campbell narrowed the deficit with a tricky conversion from the left wing, but Tyrone replied immediately when McAliskey collected a great pass from Tiernan McCann and, after eluding his marker, a goal looked to be on the cards but he blasted over.
Campbell knocked over another free but it was McAliskey who had the final say of the half to leave it 0-8 to 0-6 in favour of Tyrone.
Four minutes into the second half O’Neill evaded a couple of challenges before leaving three between the sides. Back came Armagh with a close in free from full forward Campbell. Campbell then converted a 45’ but O’Neill and Darren McCurry responded with frees for the hosts.
McCurry then got his second of the night to edge Tyrone four clear and when Armagh lost Watters it looked like there would only be one result.
Substitutes Tony Kernan and Mark Bradley traded points but that effort from the latter proved to be Tyrone’s last score of the game and there was still ten minutes left on the clock. Armagh began to pile on the pressure with the superb Colm Cavanagh thwarting them on a couple of occasions when back helping out his defence.
A Campbell thirteen metre free left three between the sides and Armagh then struck for that dramatic equaliser deep into injury time when Grimley got on the end of fellow substitute Kernan’s high delivery to flick to the net past keeper Niall Morgan.
Tyrone - Niall Morgan, Aidan McCrory, Padraig Hampsey, Cathal McCarron, Niall Sludden, Rory Brennan, Tiernan McCann, Colm Cavanagh, Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte, Ronan O’Neill, Richard Donnelly, Darren McCurry, Sean Cavanagh, Connor McAliskey.
Subs – Mark Bradley for Harte, Barry Tierney for Sludden, Conall McCann for McAliskey, Padraig McNulty for Richard Donnelly
Scorers – Ronan O’Neill 0-5, Connor McAliskey 0-3, Richard Donnelly 0-2, Darren McCurry 0-2, Mark Bradley 0-1
Armagh - Patrick Morrison, Andy Mallon, Charlie Vernon, Shea Heffron, Mark Shields, Sean Connell, Aidan Forker, Joe McElroy, Ethan Rafferty, Rory Grugan, Miceal McKenna, Ciaron O’Hanlon, Colm Watters, Stefan Campbell, Gavin McParland.
Subs – Tony Kernan for O’Hanlon, Niall Grimley for Rafferty, Aaron Findon for McKenna, Jemar Hall for Campbell, Stefan Forker for McParland
Scorers – Stefan Campbell 0-6, Niall Grimley 1-0, Colm Watters 0-2, Tony Kernan 0-1, Aidan Forker 0-1
Attendance - 4,255
Referee – Paddy Neilan, Roscommon