All-Ireland SFC Q-Final: Galway defeat Armagh on penalties

All-Ireland SFC quarter-final

GALWAY 2-21 ARMAGH 3-18 (AET) Galway win 4-1 on penalties

By Paul Keane at Croke Park

An All-Ireland SFC quarter-final encounter for the ages was decided in historic fashion, Galway digging so deep to overcome Armagh on penalties.

Successful spot kicks from Shane Walsh, Damien Comer, Robert Finnety and Matthew Tierney, compared to just one conversion from three Armagh attempts, ultimately secured victory for the Connacht champions.

But it was an encounter with more angles than the most complex of trigonometry lessons and it will take some time for both camps to get their heads around just what unfolded at Croke Park.

Galway should have sealed the deal, and a semi-final clash with Derry on July 9, within regular time as they were six points clear with 72 minutes on the clock.

But two stoppage time Armagh goals from Aidan Nugent and Conor Turbitt, and then a levelling point from Rian O’Neill in the 80th minute, forced extra-time at 2-14 to 1-17.

A melee as the players left the field resulted in straight red cards for Galway captain Sean Kelly and Armagh’s Nugent. It was Armagh’s second dismissal of the day as Greg McCabe was sent off in the 62nd minute.

There were more goals in extra-time, Rory Grugan punching in for Armagh and Cillian McDaid responding in kind, the Galway man then nailing a 91st minute point to tie the game up yet again and force penalties.

It was the first ever SFC game in the All-Ireland series, and the first at Croke Park, to be decided by penalties.

The tactical battles throughout were fascinating. Armagh chose to largely keep Nugent and O’Neill close to goal in a two man full-forward line. Former Galway U-20 star Jack Glynn picked up Nugent and captain Kelly tracked O’Neill.

Jason Duffy, wearing number 15, dropped out to play a deeper role while Stefan Campbell, nominally a half-forward, spent much of his time shoring up the Armagh midfield.

Matthew Tierney of Galway scores the winning penalty in the penalty shoot-out of the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final match between Armagh and Galway at Croke Park, Dublin.

Walsh, fresh from tormenting Roscommon and shooting 1-6 in the Connacht final, had Crossmaglen’s James Morgan for company all afternoon while powerhouse Galway full-forward Comer was marked by Aidan Forker.

Armagh will probably look back on the opening half and wonder how exactly they only broke even at 0-7 apiece.

They led 0-4 to 0-1 after the opening quarter and were still three points to the good approaching the half hour mark, 0-7 to 0-4.

Galway anticipated that the Orchard would try to punish them with long, early deliveries into the danger area but knowing what was coming, and being able to prevent it from happening, are two different things entirely.

Galway were helpless, for example, when Nugent seized possession from a long kick pass up through the centre in the seventh minute and laid off to O’Neill to snipe Armagh’s opening point.

O’Neill was the provider with a 25-metre kick pass for Rory Grugan’s first point in the 11th minute, moving Armagh 0-3 to 0-1 ahead.

Armagh’s next score summed up what they are all about, goalkeeper Ethan Raffery driving a long, low kick-out straight up the centre to set Armagh on the attack. Two passes later, they had the ball over the bar and Nugent was wheeling away in satisfaction.

A Jarlath Og Burns score came from a similar strategy, Conor O’Neill this time booting long to O’Neill who fed the marauding half-back.

Galway were living off scraps at the other end and stayed just about in the game with points from Comer, Matthew Tierney, McDaid and Rob Finnerty.

But as they got to grips with Armagh and began to cut out the long deliveries, they started to impose themselves on the game.

Walsh and Dylan McHugh both won frees following fouls by Morgan which Walsh converted and when Tierney added another score just before the break, the sides were back on level terms.

It flattered Galway a little as they were largely restricted to shots from distance though with Comer and Walsh they possessed a clear and present danger at all times. Galway twice tested the waters with long, diagonal balls towards Comer. Neither paid off though Comer did fist just wide with the first opportunity, ensuring Armagh were always alive to the threat.

The second-half, for the most part, was all about Galway and their ability to get on top of Armagh and put themselves into a winning position.

Johnny Heaney’s 41st minute goal put the 2001 All-Ireland champions 1-8 to 0-8 ahead and a Walsh point shortly after opened up a significant four-point lead.

Armagh, more ragged now, found themselves under real pressure and with centre-back McCabe shown a straight red card for a huge hit on Tierney, Galway were able to open up a six-point lead.

It remained that way in the 72nd minute but when referee David Coldrick announced eight minutes of additional time, opportunity knocked for Armagh.

They took full advantage with goals from Nugent and substitute Turbitt making it a one-point game before Campbell won a free way out on the left wing and split the posts to send the game to extra-time at 1-17 to 2-14.

The drama continued with a goal for either side and ultimately the penalties. Truly historic stuff.

Galway scorers: Shane Walsh 0-6 (0-5f), Cillian McDaid 1-2, Robert Finnerty 0-4, Johnny Heaney 1-0, Damien Comer 0-3, Matthew Tierney 0-2, Patrick Kelly 0-1, Finnian O Laoi 0-1, Kieran Molloy 0-1, Paul Conroy 0-1.

Armagh scorers: Rory Grugan 1-3 (0-2f), Aidan Nugent 1-2 (0-1m), Conor Turbitt 1-1, Rian O’Neill 0-4 (0-3f), Stefan Campbell 0-3, Jarlath Og Burns 0-1, Conor O’Neill 0-1, Eoin Woods 0-1, Jemar Hall 0-1, Justin Kieran 0-1.

Galway: Conor Gleeson; Liam Silke, Sean Kelly, Jack Glynn; Dylan McHugh, John Daly, Kieran Molloy; Paul Conroy, Cillian McDaid; Patrick Kelly, Matthew Tierney, Johnny Heaney; Robert Finnerty, Damien Comer, Shane Walsh.

Subs: Finnian O Laoi for McDaid 49-54 blood, O Laoi for Tierney 62-69 blood, O Laoi for Patrick Kelly 69, Niall Daly for Finnerty 74, Owen Gallagher for Walsh 79. Billy Mannion for Sean Kelly (red card) e/t, Walsh for Gallagher e/t, Finnerty for Daly e/t. Gallagher for Heaney 83, James Foley for Silke 84.

Armagh: Ethan Rafferty; James Morgan, Aidan Forker, Aaron McKay; Stephen Sheridan, Greg McCabe, Jarlath Og Burns; Ben Crealey, Stefan Campbell; Conor O’Neill, Andrew Murnin, Jason Duffy; Aidan Nugent, Rian O’Neill, Rory Grugan.

Subs: Connaire Mackin for Sheridan 43, Conor Turbitt for Murnin 43, Ciaran Mackin for McKay 55, Eoin Woods for Duffy 68, Justin Kieran for Burns 68. Niall Rowland for McCabe (red card) e/t, Burns for Nugent (red card) e/t, Mark Shields for Forker 75, Jemar Hall for Grugan 83, Duffy for Crealey 85, Ciaran Higgins for McKay 90.

Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).