All-Ireland SFC: Armagh advance to quarter-finals

All-Ireland SFC Group Two

Armagh 0-16 Galway 1-12

By Billy Coss at Avant Money Páirc Seán MacDiarmada

It didn’t hit the levels of drama reached in last summer’s Croke Park classic, but in another chaotic finish it was Rory Grugan’s injury-time free that proved decisive, sending Armagh through to the All-Ireland quarter-finals as group winners and consigning Galway to next weekend’s preliminary quarter-finals.

Level 12 times over the course of the absorbing contest, Galway’s Shane Walsh had a last-gasp opportunity to make it 13 only for his right-footed free to skew off target before referee Joe McQuillan called time on an incredible afternoon in the All-Ireland round-robin.

It was Grugan, Stefan Forker, Andrew Murnin and Conor Turbitt who drove Armagh’s second half dominance in the absence of the suspended Rian O’Neill. Kieran McGeeney’s men turned around 1-5 to 0-6 in arrears and despite facing into the wind went on to outscore Galway by ten points to seven thereafter.

The Tribesmen, who lined out without Dylan McHugh and Damien Comer, will rue costly turnovers as well as a number of missed goal chances. Matthew Tierney went close to netting in the early stages and Armagh ‘keeper Ethan Rafferty was equal to Shane Walsh’s penalty shortly before Galway captain Seán Kelly cut through to finish low and with conviction on 28 minutes.

Cillian McDaid and Walsh pointed twice, and Peter Cooke was also on the mark for Galway during that opening half. Armagh’s tally, meanwhile, came courtesy of Turbitt (two), Grugan, Murnin, Forker and Stefan Campbell. Their best chance of hitting the net came and went when the excellent Kelly intercepted Stefan Campbell’s attempt to tee up Conor O’Neill at the back post.

With Turbitt doubling his return and Campbell, Grugan and Murnin all topping up their tallies, the Ulster finalists landed five of the second half’s opening seven points to edge in front, 0-11 to 1-7, on 45 minutes.

It was point for point thereafter with the counties trading mini spells in the ascendancy. Walsh was Galway’s chief source of scores with Cooke, Kelly and Tierney providing most support after the break.

After Forker cancelled out Tierney’s lead score, Galway ‘keeper Connor Gleeson was quick off his line to snuff out the danger when Grugan attempted to play Turbitt in on goal on 65 minutes.

It remained on a knife-edge and the key score eventually fell Armagh’s way. Galway coughed up possession cheaply and Murnin latched onto the loose ball in midfield before surging deep into enemy territory and earning the match-winning free. Grugan held his nerve to kick his fourth of the day and cap a terrific display.

A draw would still have earned Galway top spot, however Walsh’s late, late attempt was missed and combined with Tyrone and Westmeath ending in stalemate, it meant they fell short of their objective of booking a quarter-final place.

It’s Mayo, Monaghan or Roscommon for Padraic Joyce’s side next weekend. Armagh, after their first ever championship win over Galway, can sit back and watch it all unfold.

Scorers for Armagh: Rory Grugan 0-4 (2fs), Conor Turbitt 0-4 (2f), Andrew Murnin 0-3 (1m), Aidan Forker and Stefan Campbell 0-2 each, Jason Duffy 0-1.

Scorers for Galway: Shane Walsh 0-5 (3f), Seán Kelly 1-1, Cillian McDaid, Peter Cooke and Matthew Tierney 0-2 each.

Armagh: Ethan Rafferty; Paddy Burns, Ciarán Higgins, Aidan Forker; Greg McCabe, Aaron McKay, Conor O’Neill; Ciarán Mackin, Ben Crealey; Jason Duffy, Rory Grugan, Callum Cumiskey; Conor Turbitt, Andrew Murnin, Stefan Campbell.

Subs: Justin Kieran for O’Neill (temporary 13-20), Jarly Óg Burns for Cumiskey (47), Ross McQuillan for McCabe (52), Kieran for Higgins (61), Joe McElroy for Duffy (70).

Galway: Connor Gleeson; Seán Kelly, Cian Hernon, Jack Glynn; Johnny McGrath, John Daly, Billy Mannion; Paul Conroy, Cillian McDaid; Matthew Tierney, Johnny Heaney, Peter Cooke; Cathal Sweeney, Ian Burke, Shane Walsh.

Subs: John Maher for Billy Mannion (52), Rob Finnerty for Heaney (59), Cillian Ó Curraoin for McDaid (temporary, 68-70+1), Ó Curraoin for Kelly (70+4).

Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).