Tyrone claim Dr McKenna Cup
Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Final
TYRONE 0-16 ARMAGH 0-14
By Orla Bannon at the Athletic Grounds
It was the noughties revisited in the Athletic Grounds as Tyrone and Armagh served up a red-hot reminder of their epic battles of old, the Red Hands prevailing in a fiesty final quarter to win a seventh Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup title in eight years.
It's been quite some time since these arch rivals went toe-to-toe with this intensity - three red cards and 11 yellows saw Armagh finish with 13 players and Tyrone 14.
Armagh defender James Morgan went first after 62 minutes for a second yellow card offence, before an off-the-ball clash led to straight reds for Aaron McKay (both Armagh) and Ronan McNamee (Tyrone) in front of a 11,318 crowd.
The sides were level at 0-12 apiece after 57 minutes but Darren McCurry's 0-9, which included eight from frees, helped them over the line.
Armagh won a penalty when Kieran McGeary was judged to have touched Stefan Campbell's goal-bound shot on the ground with five minutes of normal time to go and Armagh trailing by two.
But Rory Grugan's kick clipped the top of the crossbar and went over for a point and Tyrone dug deep to claw out a win over their old rivals.
Armagh, confident after back-to-back wins over Monaghan and Donegal, started brightly and led 0-4 to 0-1 early on with Stefan Campbell slicing over the game's first point from play after 11 minutes.
Up to that, Armagh's scores had come from placed balls from Niall Grimley and Rory Grugan.
Darren McCurry's frees kept Tyrone in touch until Cathal McShane slotted over their first from play in the 21st minute.
That sparked a good run of scores for the Red Hands, the first of five in a row, with Niall Sludden getting on the end of two well-worked moves for fine points.
Tyrone's decision-making was better than Armagh's and McCurry fought hard to win a 50-50 ball against James Morgan, was fouled and tapped over the easy free.
Declan McClure clipped over a point to stretch Tyrone's lead to 0-7 to 0-5.
Four Armagh defenders were booked in the first half and things got heated just before the break with a spat that saw Aaron McKay, Greg McCabe (both Armagh) and Conall McCann (Tyrone) all pick up yellow cards, as Tyrone went in with a 0-9 to 0-6 lead at half time.
Tyrone held that three-point cushion a few times in the second half as the game grew increasingly physical.
Campbell scored the best point of the game, shaking off McNamee to send the ball sailing through the posts and Niall Grimley was superb from frees for Kieran McGeeney's side.
Morgan's dismissal for two yellows left Armagh down to 14 and Tyrone never trailed in the last quarter.
Grugan clipped over a point to reduce it to 0-14 to 0-13 but that was as close as they got with Tyrone scoring two of the last three points to start the year with silverware.
Scorers for Tyrone: Darren McCurry 0-9 (8fs), Niall Sludden 0-2, Cathal McShane 0-2 (1f), Ronan McNamee 0-1, Declan McClure 0-1, Niall Morgan 0-1 (f).
Scorers for Armagh: Rory Grugan 0-5 (4fs), Niall Grimley 0-5 (4fs, 1 '45'), Stefan Campbell 0-2, Rian O'Neill 0-1, Jamie Clarke 0-1.
TYRONE: Niall Morgan; Ciaran McLaughlin, Ronan McNamee, Liam Rafferty; Tiernan McCann, Aidan McCrory, Michael Cassidy; Conan Grugan, Declan McClure; Niall Sludden, Ronan O'Neill, Conal McCann; Darren McCurry, Peter Harte, Cathal McShane.
Subs: Conor Meyler for C McCann (43), Mattie Donnelly for Cassidy (43), Kieran McGeary for Rafferty (50), Darragh Canavan for O'Neill (51), Kyle Coney for Grugan (61).
ARMAGH: Blaine Hughes; Connaire Mackin, Aaron McKay, James Morgan; Ruairi McCaughley, Brendan Donaghy, Gregory McCabe; Stephen Sheridan, Niall Grimley; Jemar Hall, Rory Grugan, Ryan McShane; Stefan Campbell, Rian O'Neill, Jamie Clarke.
Subs: Jarlath Og Burns for McShane (HT), Joe McElroy for Donaghy (HT), Charlie Vernon for McCabe (50), Jason Duffy for Clarke (60), Ross McQuillan for Hall (63)
REFEREE: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).