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Friday 15 December 2017

Harte happy as Red Hands edge out Armagh

MICKEY HARTE has reasserted his belief that there is nothing radically wrong with modern Gaelic football in the wake of yesterday's thrilling 0-19 to 1-13 victory for his Tyrone charges against old rivals Armagh.

The Red Hand supremo was speaking from a position of strength, given the quality of this absorbing Ulster SFC quarter-final watched by 16,418 spectators at the Morgan Athletic Grounds.

"I thought the people got serious value for money," Harte proclaimed. "People talk about blanket defences and this, that and the other as if there is no right for a team to change what they do or experiment. The scoreline tells its own tale. It wasn't that it was very open. Football has more to offer than some of those narrow-minded pundits would have you believe," he concluded.

Tyrone won, and the suspicion from early on was that no matter what Armagh threw at them, they probably would have had a sufficient response in what transpired to be the best game of Championship 2012 to date.

That's how it transpired down the home stretch as Armagh - reduced to 14 men when Kevin Dyas picked up two yellow cards within the space of 90 seconds midway through the second half - came storming back in the last quarter to draw level.

But Tyrone's ability to soak up that punishment and counter themselves with three unanswered points - via Peter Harte, a Martin Penrose free and Stephen O'Neill - was the mark of a team that knows its place. On this early-summer evidence, despite their various season-ending injuries, most notably to Seán Cavanagh, they cannot be excluded from the list of potential All-Ireland contenders.

Armagh's dream of a mild upset were boosted by a sweetly finished ninth-minute goal from Aidan Forker, but ultimately their attack was too reliant on the brilliance of Jamie Clarke.

He was ably assisted by midfielder Kieran Toner, who won a font of clean possession from his own and Tyrone's kickouts.

For all that, Tyrone's collective effort was hugely impressive, leaving Harte to conclude: "You want to be winning Ulster championship matches because if you don't do that, there is a degree of growth missing in the maturity of those players. Winning a game like that brings those players on more than anything else in the world."

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