Aaron McKay, Armagh, and Conor Meyler, Tyrone, in action at the Athletic Grounds.
Aaron McKay, Armagh, and Conor Meyler, Tyrone, in action at the Athletic Grounds.

All Ireland SFC R1: Champions knocked out by Armagh

All Ireland SFC Round One

Armagh 1-16 Tyrone 1-10

By Declan Bogue at the Athletic Grounds

It was a bitterly disappointed Tyrone joint-manager Feargal Logan who faced the media after the All-Ireland champion s crashed out of the All-Ireland Championship to a highly-motivated Armagh.

Beaten at home by Derry to the tune of eleven points and not Armagh by six, it has been one of the poorest defences of an All-Ireland title in at least a decade, and had Logan searching already for answers.

“It’s a very intangible and difficult thing,” he began.

“In terms of focus, and hunger and all those things. It’s very hard to put your finger on it. We thought we would kickstart some day and thought today could be the day. But it didn’t.

“That’s our issue to live with now. Dealing with success, it’s not easy and we saw it all year really.”

This was the third time Armagh have beaten Tyrone this season, but few could have imagined the game would turn out like this, the Red Hands scoring a sum total of 1-4 from play throughout the game, looking a shadow of the version that blazed like a comet last summer.

Here, they were bested in every department by a team that began this game with no fewer than five changes to the team that started against Donegal.

A return for Mattie Donnelly meant Tyrone started the same forward line that started the All-Ireland final

At the same time they were leaving plenty of weaponry to roll off the bench with Footballer of the Year Kieran McGeary, Cathal McShane and the Canavan brothers in reserve.

But despite all that, they were nowhere near Armagh. Six points does not flatter the men in orange who had a sensational performance from goalkeeper Ethan Rafferty – questioned widely after the Donegal defeat – who scored a point from play in each half.

They got off to the best possible start after three minutes when Conor McKenna had the ball in the net, but they only scored twice in the opening 27 minutes.

After chipping away at a few points Armagh took the lead on 15 minutes when Aidan Nugent received a pass from Paddy Burns, burned Ronan McNamee for pace along the endline and beat Niall Morgan on his near post.

Two more goal chances followed for Armagh, who shockingly only went on at half time one point up given their dominance.

In the second half, they beat Tyrone by double scores, 10 points to five. Rian O’Neill looked imperious in controlling the game in all sectors of the pitch, and their march, incredibly, continues.

Scorers for Armagh: A Nugent (1-1), R O’Neill (0-4, 3f), E Rafferty, S Campbell, A Murnin (0-2 each), C O’Neill, S Sheridan, R Grugan, J Duffy, C Turbitt (0-1 each)

Scorers for Tyrone: D McCurry (0-7, 4f, 1 mark), C McKenna (1-0), P Harte, C Kilpatrick, R Donnelly (0-1 each)

ARMAGH: E Rafferty; J Morgan, A Forker, P Burns; A McKay, G McCabe, J Óg Burns; S Sheridan, B Crealey; R Grugan, S Campbell, C O’Neill; A Nugent, R O’Neill, J Duffy

Subs: C Mackin for P Burns (33m), C Turbitt for O’Neill (HT), A Murnin for Nugent (60m), J Hall for Duffy (60m), M Shields for Mackin (67m), R McQuillan for Sheridan (74m)

TYRONE: N Morgan; P Teague, R McNamee, P Hampsey; M McKernan, P Harte, R Brennan; C Kilpatrick, F Burns; C Meyler, M O’Neill, N Sludden; D McCurry, M Donnelly, C McKenna

Subs: K McGeary for Teague (31m), R Donnelly for Sludden (HT), D Canavan for Burns (50m), C McShane (55m), M McGleenan (74m)

Referee: David Goldrick (Meath).