Instead, it’s Tipperary who will take a step up in the world following a sensational hat-trick of second-half goals from full-forward Michael Quinlivan who single-handedly left the Orchard county on their knees.
Ecstatic Tipperary manager Liam Kearns could scarcely believe the turnaround in his team’s fortunes.
“Armagh were better than us for spells but I have to say Michael Quinlivan was just sensational,” declared Kearns, “We have had our problems lately because of the unavailability of players but today the lads stepped up to the mark in style. We thought when we lost to Louth last week we might have blown our promotion chance but this performance speaks volumes about the character of this Tipperary side.”
In rippling the Armagh net in the 37th and 46th minutes and, most tellingly of all, in the fifth minute of added time at the end of the game Quinlivan provided a twist to the narrative that would not have been thought possible.
For Armagh this was a particularly bitter pill to swallow and manager Kieran McGeeney certainly did not indulge in excuses afterwards.
“We had goal chances and did not take them. We maybe took the wrong options at times. This came back to bite us. We’re not allowed to talk about refereeing decisions so I will say no more.”
Armagh, brisk and enterprising, swarmed forward in the opening stages, a point after just 16 seconds from Stefan Campbell setting the tone. When Kevin O’Halloran potted a ‘45’ in the 14th minute, though, it was to be the visitors’ last point for 24 minutes.
Armagh stepped up a gear and launched a series of blistering counter-attacks that asked big questions of the Tipperary defence. Rory Grugan’s 19th minute point heralded a scoring blitz that saw Jamie Clarke, Aidan Forker, Niall Grimley and Murnin all hit the target.
It was not until the third minute at of added time O’Halloran landed his second point from a free to leave Armagh ahead by 0-7 to 0-4 at the half-way stage.
But the second-half undoubtedly belonged to man-of-the-match Quinlivan and Tipperary. His 37th minute goal lit the torch and when he swept in a second in the 46th minute to put his side on level terms at 2-5 to 0-11, the match was balanced on a knife-edge. Armagh introduced the experienced Ciaran McKeever but even he could not curb the inspirational Quinlivan.
When Oisin O’Neill and Jamie Clarke hoisted Armagh into a 0-15 to 2-5 lead they looked comfortable again but Liam Boland and Alan Moloney posted points for Tipperary before Quinlivan rifled in his third goal deep in added time to make it a joy day for Tipperary.
M Quinlivan 3-1, C Sweeney 0-2 (1f), K O’Halloran 0-2 (2f), R Kiely, L Boland, A Maloney 0-1 each.
A Murnin 0-3, R Grugan 0-3, J Clarke 0-3, N Grimley 0-2, O’Neill 0-2, A Forker, S Campbell, G McCabe 0-1.
E Comerford; A Campbell, P Codd, S O’Connell; B Maher, R Kiely, G Hannigan; L Casey, J Kennedy; J Keane, K O’Halloran, B Fox; C Sweeney, M Quinlivan 3-1, C O’Shaughnessy.
K Fahey for O’Shaughnessy (52), L Boland for O’Halloran (66) A Moloney 0-1 for Hannigan (70).
Maher (16), Fahey (64).
B Hughes; J Morgan, C Vernon, P Hughes; N Rowland, A Forker, A McKay; B Crealey, O O’Neill; N Grimley, A Duffy, R Grugan; J Clarke, S Campbell, A Murnin.
G McParland for Duffy, C McKeever for Crealey (48), C O’Hanlon for O’Neill (65), G McCabe for Forker (70).
O’Neill (24), Murnin (62), Vernon (71).
Rory Hickey (Clare).