All-Ireland SFC: Armagh recover to earn vital draw

All-Ireland SFC Group One

Armagh 1-12 Galway 0-15

By Billy Coss at Markievicz Park

A 74th minute point from Stefan Campbell gave Armagh the priceless draw they needed against Galway to take top spot in Group One, advancing to the quarter-finals of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship.

With victories over Derry and Westmeath in the bank, the sides were battling it out for the most direct route to the last eight. A home preliminary quarter-final awaited the loser, or, in the event of a draw, Galway given their inferior score difference.

That’s exactly what transpired on another afternoon of wildly fluctuating fortunes between the counties that ebbed one way, then the other as the Orchard County reeled in a five-point deficit from the 58th minute on and consigned the Tribesmen to the preliminary quarter-final draw.

Galway held a perfect record in the fixture after their exhilarating quarter-final penalty shootout victory in 2022, but Armagh struck back to edge last year’s clash at the death in Carrick-on-Shannon. They were level 12 times over the course of that absorbing contest 12 months ago and they traded on parity on eight more occasions in front of 8,870 in Sligo this time around.

Four times Armagh kicked go-ahead scores in the first half only for Galway to respond and equalise before Padraic Joyce’s side hit a purple patch with four on spin from the 30th minute to the break to lead 0-8 to 0-6.

Shorn of hamstring victim Damien Comer, Galway welcomed back captain Seán Kelly and Rob Finnerty to their starting XV and it was Finnerty who accounted for half of that tally with four points (three frees). Shane Walsh landed two and one apiece came from Paul Conroy and Cillian McDaid.

Tiernan Kelly, Andrew Murnin, Ben Crealey, Rian O’Neill and Conor Turbitt (two) were on target for the Orchard County.

Galway stole a march in the third quarter and forged a 0-13 to 0-8 in front following efforts from Walsh (free), John Maher, Paul Conroy, Dylan McHugh and Liam Silke.

Rian O’Neill and Andrew Murnin came up with Armagh’s sole responses in that spell as their rising wide count would hit double figures by the finish.

The deficit to four was trimmed to four when the game’s hinge moment arrived in the 59th minute as Turbitt picked off a loose Connor Gleeson restart and set up Tiernan Kelly to finish clinically from close range.

Buoyed by that score, Armagh retained the momentum with O’Neill grabbing his third and Turbitt his fourth to move Armagh 1-11 to 0-13 in front on 62 minutes.

In another tense endgame between the counties, Galway grabbed back the initiative with back-to-back Walsh frees to put one foot in the quarter-finals.

Crucially, their conversion rate nose-dived late on and Armagh conjured up the score they sought with Campbell latching onto the end of a fine move down the left flank to punch the all-important leveller.

Scorers for Armagh: Conor Turbitt 0-4 (1f), Tiernan Kelly 1-1, Rian O’Neill 0-3, Andrew Murnin 0-2, Ben Crealey and Stefan Campbell 0-1 each.

Scorers for Galway: Shane Walsh 0-5 (3fs), Rob Finnerty 0-3 (2fs), Paul Conroy 0-2, Matthew Tierney, Cillian McDaid, John Maher, Dylan McHugh and Liam Silke 0-1 each.

Armagh: Blaine Hughes; Barry McCambridge, Aaron McKay, Ciarán Higgins; Joe McElroy, Ben Crealey, Aidan Forker (captain); Rian O’Neill, Niall Grimley; Peter McGrane, Tiernan Kelly, Oisin Conaty; Rory Grugan, Andrew Murnin, Conor Turbitt.

Subs: Stefan Campbell for Higgins (HT), Ross McQuillan for Conaty (48), Aidan Nugent for Forker (54), Oisín O’Neill for McGrane (65).

Galway: Connor Gleeson; Johnny McGrath, Seán Fitzgerald, Jack Glynn; Dylan McHugh, Liam Silke, Séan Mulkerrin; Paul Conroy, Matthew Tierney; Céin D’Arcy, Seán Kelly, Cillian McDaid; Robert Finnerty, Shane Walsh, John Maher.

Subs: John Daly for Mulkerrin (47), Cathal Sweeney for McDaid (54), Johnny Heaney for Kelly (61), Daniel O’Flaherty for D’Arcy (67), Tomo Culhane for Finnerty (70).

Referee: Seán Hurson (Tyrone).