McKenna Cup: Tyrone edge past Armagh in thriller and into semis

January 08, 2020

Niall Sludden slams in a goal for Tyrone

Tyrone edged an epic against Armagh tonight to book a date with Down in the semi-finals of the Dr McKenna Cup.

It finished 3-18 to 3-15 at the Athletic Grounds, where a crowd of 5,125 was in attendance as a brace of late points from Darren McCurry ushered the Red Hands to victory after Rory Grugan’s late goal had put the heat on the visitors.

Two first-half goals from Ronan O’Neill looked to have the holders cruising as they led by seven with as many minutes to go until half-time, but Armagh netted through a Rian O’Neill free on the eve of the interval which left the scoreboard reading 2-8 to 1-7 when the teams went in.

Points from Oisin O’Neill and Grugan had the margin down to two for the Orchard men before they were caught out at the back once more.

This time Niall Sludden supplied the cool finish to raise Tyrone’s third green flag in under 40 minutes, leaving the hosts to chase the game and they’d come up with the perfect response when Stefan Campbell rifled in a penalty in the 42nd minute.

Sludden and Kieran McGeary sailed over at the other end and Mickey Harte’s side would stretch their lead out to 3-15 to 2-11 prior to a brace of sorely needed Conor Turbitt points for the trailers.

Ronan O’Neill posted a point in response at the other end but a thrilling finish seemed inevitable in this rollercoaster derby clash and it was Grugan that provided it by lashing in the game’s sixth goal come the 65th minute.

A 40-metre free from McCurry made it 3-17 to 3-14 with a minute left in regulation and while Grugan cancelled it out, the former conjured a splendid score from the sideline to ensure Tyrone passage into the last four.

Down and Donegal also picked up wins tonight in the third round against Derry and Antrim respectively to move into Sunday's semi-finals.

Tyrone - N Morgan; C McLaughlin, R Brennan, N Kelly; M O'Neill, M McKernan, M Murnaghan (0-1); B McDonnell, C Grugan (0-1); K Coney (0-1), N Sludden (1-1), K McGeary (0-2); R McHugh (0-3, 2f), F Burns (0-1), R O'Neill (2-3). Subs: L Rafferty (0-1) for M O'Neill, C Kilpatrick for C Grugan, D McCurry (0-4, 2f) for K Coney, D Mulgrew for R Brennan, C Quinn for M McKernan.

Armagh - N Brady; C O'Neill, S Sheridan, A Forker; J McElroy, G McCabe, C McConville; N Grimley, O O'Neill (0-2m); M Shields, S Campbell (1-1, 1-0pen), A Nugent; C Turbitt (0-4, 2m), R O'Neill (1-3, 1-1f, 0-1'45), J Duffy (0-1). Subs: R Grugan (1-3, 0-2f) for J McElroy, P Hughes (0-1) for C McConville, J Og Burns for S Sheridan, C McGeary for J Duffy.

Referee - B Cassidy.

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