Jamie Clarke was the hero with two injury time points to give Armagh a vital opening win over Tipperary in the Allianz National League at the Athletic Grounds today.
Kieran McGeeney’s men trailed by two points as the clock ticked over into two-minutes of injury time but a Micheal McKenna score and Jamie Clarke double – the second 20 seconds over the allocated time – saw Armagh snatch an unlikely victory from the jaws of defeat.
The game wasn’t the best to watch and Armagh under-performed for much of the game but a fighting spirit and a man advantage was enough to register the first two points of their league campaign.
It took six minutes for the first score to come after a scrappy start but Jamie Clarke registered for the hosts following a great ball in from Aidan Forker after good initial work by Micheal McKenna.
And the Cross’ man was at it again a few minutes later with a wonderful finish, slotting over after a beautiful dummy to extend the early lead.
Tipperary were quick to respond though and opened up their account with a Michael Quinlivan point a minute later when maybe a goal was on.
Early on, it was evident the game was shaping up to be a defensive war of attrition and it was through some great defensive work that Armagh kept a lively Tipp’ attack at bay.
Another Clarke point was racked up with a free on 20 minutes but just like before, the visitors responded excellently with a superb long range score from Colin O’Riordan, leaving the gap at a solitary point.
The opening 25 minutes were nip and tuck but Armagh could have been further ahead if it wasn’t for their lack of potency in front of goal, often opting to play sideways.
Colin Sweeney soon punished that impotency with a free to level the scores with just over a quarter of the game gone.
Tony Kernan then ended a 10-minute period without a score by pointing from a free on the left hand side of the goal.
Despite trailing, the Munster men continued to long dangerous and four minutes before the break, should have had a goal with Brian Fox firing wide when really it looked easier to beat Tim Harney in the Armagh goal.
Nonetheless, Sweeney tied the game up with a free just a minute later following a foul that could have been avoided by captain Ciaran McKeever.
The game really sprung into life in injury time of the first half when midfielder Aaron Findon decided to open up his legs and power towards goal. As he bore down on goal – taking liberties with the four steps rule – he was ripped to the ground giving referee David Goldrick no choice but to award the penalty, despite the visitor’s protests.
Clarke stepped up for Armagh and coolly slotted the ball to the right of the goalkeeper and open up a three-point lead for the hosts going into the break.
The second period started as frantically as the first ended as Tipperary took the lead with four points in as many minutes of the restart.
O’Riordan pointed within 15 seconds and a Sweeney free a minute later was followed up with a Barry Brogan free and another O’Riordan point.
Armagh, dazed and on the ropes, were then handed a lifeline when Robbie Kiely saw red when he threw a punch in the direction of Cullyhanna’s Sean Connell.
That really gave the Orchardmen a new lease life with Aidan Forker becoming the first non-Crossmaglen player to register.
Two minutes later, the tie swung massively in the host’s favour when Mark Shields, roving forward from half-back, bagged a goal with a brilliant strike to open up a three-point advantage.
Sweeney then added his fifth point of the day with a free 12 minutes into the second half to reduce the arrears to two points.
After the initial shock of losing a player and conceding a goal, the visitors began to recoup and added another point through O’Brien.
With 13 minutes remaining on the clock and Kevin Dyas having to limp off just minutes after his introduction, Grogan leveled things up to set up a grandstand final 15 minutes.
And with less than 10 minutes left on the clock, Tipperary were in front for the second time through O’Brien, before Hannigan doubled that lead.
As the clock ticked into injury time and Armagh looking dead and buried, Micheal McKenna pointed to give some hope.
With just 20 seconds of injury time remaining Jamie Clarke leveled but it wasn’t finished there as man-of-the-match Clarke added the winner 20 seconds over the allocated injury time.
A remarkable finish at the Athletic Grounds and Kieran McGeeney’s men get off to a perfect start in Division Three.
Final Score: Armagh 2-08 v 0-13
ARMAGH: T.Harney, F. Moriarty, C. Vernon, M. Murray, M. Shields, C. McKeever, S. Connell, A. Findon, S. Campbell, E. McVerry, M. McKenna, A. Forker, T. Kernan, C. Rafferty, J. Clarke
Main photo by John Merry
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