Armagh picked up their first win of this year’s Allianz Football League, with a crucial six-point home victory over a depleted side Tipperary at the Athletic Grounds.
Charlie Vernon started his first game of the year, and made a telling impact to this Orchard County victory, netting the only goal of the contest in the 20th minute.
Tipperary relied heavily on the contribution of Liam McGrath and Conor Sweeney from frees, and didn’t score from play until the final quarter, after McGrath’s fifth score cut the gap to five points in the 55th minute.
Armagh’s ability to break down a lot of Tipperary’s attacking chances, and turn them into scoring opportunities of their own was a key factor in this game as Armagh jumped to fourth spot in the Division.
The visitors were still without a host of players including keeper Evan Comerford; Robbie Kiely, Bill Maher, Shane O’Connell and Josh Keane.
It hasn’t got any better for the Premier County, with an ankle injury for Paul Maher leaving them sweating on the fitness of the Kilsheelan-Kilcash clubman this week.
This added to the 24th minute dismissal of Brian Fox on a straight red card, will leave Tipperary further depleted ahead of a Munster derby with Cork next weekend.
Tipperary were wind assisted in the opening half, but were broken down on many occasions, and never led this game.
Stefan Campbell opened the scoring with the first of his two points in the fourth minute, before McGrath opened the Tipperary tally three minutes later.
However, Tipperary would only add three further points to their tally over the next 19 minutes, as Armagh really came good.
Kieran McGeeney’s men were very effective in front of the posts, and also in defence, sniffing out most of Tipperary’s attacking chances, and turning many of these moves into scores of their own at the opposite end.
Armagh regained the lead after a Charlie Vernon was on the end of a move, as the hosts quickly worked the ball upfield, following Sweeney’s score.
A pin-point pass from Aidan Forker, saw Rian O’Neill put Armagh two points clear, and this lead was extended to a goal margin by the 11th minute, after Niall Grimley converted a 45 metre free.
Tipperary kept driving forward with McGrath, Brian Fox, Steven O’Brien and Liam Casey working hard; but scores were hard to come by.
McGrath delivered a much required point from a free, but despite countless attacking chances, Armagh came good bagging 1-2 without replay, including Vernon’s goal.
The sides twice traded points over the following eight minutes, while Tipperary keeper Michael O’Reilly – in just his third Senior start was alert, pulling off a save from Aidan Forker.
It was after this that linesman Conor Dourneen drew the attention of referee Jerome Henry, to an incident two minutes earlier, after Brian Fox delivered an unthreathening punch on Jamie Clarke.
Henry deemed the infringement to merit a straight red card, and while Tipperary were now without one of their more established players – they continued to work hard.
A sideline kick from Sweeney finished over the cross-bar, to cut the gap to six points in the 32nd minute, in a spell where the visitors managed to cut the gap two four points, with McGrath adding a brace of scores.
But Armagh closed out the half with a Rian O’Neill point to ensure a 1-9 to 0-7 interval lead.
Scores from Rory Grugan and Paul Hughes further extended their lead on the restart, and while Armagh only scored one point between the 41st and 58th minutes, Tipperary were restricted in their scores.
Armagh were also caught with some missed chances in front of the posts during this spell, and amassed the bulk of their six second half wides in this period.
McGrath delivered his sides first score from play to cut the gap to five points with 15 minutes remaining, despite being surrounded by five Armagh players, but Armagh had done enough work.
Niall Grimley and substitute Liam Boland traded points, but Armagh continued to look good, and could even afford to take off Rian O’Neill towards the end, with Ethan Rafferty taking his place, making his return from a shoulder injury, in last year’s qualifier win over Westmeath.
Scorers for Armagh: Charlie Vernon 1-1; Niall Grimley (2 45′, 2f) 0-4; Rory Grugan (1f), Rian O’Neill 0-3 each; Stefan Campbell 0-2; Jemar Hall, Paul Hughes 0-1 each.
Scorers for Tipperary: Liam McGrath (5f) 0-6; Conor Sweeney (4f, 1 s/l) 0-5; Liam Boland 0-1.
ARMAGH: Blaine Hughes; James Morgan, Aaron McKay, Paul Hughes; Aidan Forker, Greg McCabe, Connaire Mackin; Stephen Sheridan, Jemar Hall, Charlie Vernon, Rory Grugan; Stefan Campbell, Rian O’Neill, Jamie Clarke.
Subs: Ryan Kennedy for Morgan (HT); Joe McElroy for Forker (41); Pearse Casey for Mackin (61); Aidan Nugent for Clarke (61); Ethan Rafferty for O’Neill (71).
TIPPERARY: Michael O’Reilly; Alan Campbell, John Meagher, Emmett Moloney; Conal Kennedy, Daire Brennan, Jimmy Feehan; Steven O’Brien, Liam Casey; Kevin O’Halloran, Liam McGrath, Brian Fox; Philip Austin, Conor Sweeney, Paul Maher.
Subs: Liam Boland for Kennedy (32); Colm O’Shaughnessy for Maher (HT); Dan O’Meara for O’Halloran (49); Ben Hyland for Austin (53); Paddy Codd for O’Brien (68).
REFEREE: Jerome Henry (Mayo)