Armagh 1-17 Tipperary 1-15: If Kieran McGeeney did post-match interviews, he’d surely have told us of his relief at Armagh’s rising tide.
Not to put words in his mouth, of course, but the results are what they are.
Prior to their first round qualifier at home to Fermanagh on June 25, Armagh had played six championship games under McGeeney. All three Ulster outings ended in disappointment, while both Galway and Laois dished out qualifier defeats. What it meant is that their 2015 first round qualifier win over Wicklow was the sole championship triumph of McGeeney’s reign.
This morning, Armagh take their place in the bowl for the fourth round qualifier draw. They do so off the back of three consecutive championship wins.
And just as they are steadily building, they’re slowly answering the critics who poured scorn on their limp performances during the summers of 2015 and ‘16.
“Delighted, relieved,” said Armagh selector Paddy McKeever.
“Three qualifier wins is definitely good for confidence. From where we have come from, the three games will definitely lift the spirits. It will keep them going.
“The character the lads have shown is probably born out of some of the losses they have had and the collective criticism they have received from all quarters.”
This was a fully merited victory, even if they had to wait until the 70th minute to establish any semblance of breathing space. Tipperary, chasing an equaliser, left far too little cover at the back and their defence was split open by a delicious Brendan Donaghy through ball. Gavin McParland fisted possession inside to Jamie Clarke, leaving him one-on-one with Tipperary ‘keeper Ciarán Kenrick.
The Crossmaglen star shaped to shoot, but with the ball spilling from his hands, dummied Kenrick and rolled the ball into the net.
Almost more impressive was the Orchard men’s response to the opening goal of this third round qualifier. Put through by Robbie Kiely and Conor Sweeney, Michael Quinlivan beat Blain Hughes from a difficult angle to send the home outfit 1-10 to 0-9 clear on 38 minutes. Liam Kearns’ side, though, were rendered scoreless during the subsequent 20 minutes as four from the boot of Niall Grimley (three frees) brought the visitors back on level terms.
Midfield was an area where McGeeney’s charges struggled in the opening half, but Grimley, in particular, curtailed Tipperary’s dominance in this sector, with Liam Casey nowhere near as effective as he had been in the first period.
His partner, George Hannigan, had been replaced at half-time but was reintroduced following a black card to Jack Kennedy who, having started at full-forward, came out the field to take up Hannigan’s role upon the change of ends. Had Michael Quinlivan been fully fit, there is no question but he would have been deployed further out.
A Josh Keane free ended their barren spell. Momentum, though, was with the Orchard County. Jamie Clarke edged them in front for the first time on the hour mark, with his goal sending them 1-16 to 1-12 clear.
“That is the sort of class Jamie has,” McKeever continued.
“By his own standards, he was probably indifferent enough. But he always keeps showing and he always wants to score. He kicked 1-1 in a 10-minute cameo. The secret will be can we get a bit more [from him].
The hosts chased the required goal during the eight minutes of second-half stoppages.
Two Michael Quinlivan frees, one of which was cleared off the line, was as close as they came. Philip Austin’s injury-time white flag was their first point from play in the second period and just their second score from play during the second 35 minutes.
They were let down too by their failure approaching half-time to open up a five-point advantage. Ahead by 0-10 to 0-7, Kevin O’Halloran kicked wide and thereafter, Jack Kennedy’s shot was smothered. And with Liam Casey and Emmet Moloney on the deck injured, Armagh swept down the field where Rory Grugan split the posts to leave the interval scoreline reading 0-10 to 0-8.
The sizeable Armagh contingent in the crowd of 6,823 streamed onto the field afterwards, revelling in an extended summer which bears no resemblance to previous campaigns.
Scorers for Armagh:
N Grimley (0-8, 0-5 frees, 0-1 ’45); J Clarke (1-1); R Gurgan (0-1 free), G McParland (0-2 each); S Sheridan, G McCabe, A Forker, S Campbell (0-1 each).
Scorers for Tipperary:
J Keane (0-4, 0-2 frees); M Quinlivan (1-0); C Sweeney (0-3, 0-3 frees); J Kennedy (0-2 frees), K O’Halloran (0-1 free), L Casey (0-2 each); P Austin, B Fox (0-1 each).
C Kenrick; E Moloney, A Campbell, P Codd; B Maher, R Kiely, J Feehan; L Casey, G Hannigan; J Keane, K O’Halloran, B Fox; C Sweeney, J Kennedy, M Quinlivan.
P Austin for Hannigan (HT); L Boland for Moloney (48, inj); G Hannigan for Kennedy (bc, 48); D Foley for O’Halloran (70); L McGrath for Boland (73).
B Hughes; B Donaghy, J Morgan, C Vernon; G McCabe, P Hughes, A Forker; S Sheridan, N Grimley; C O’Hanlon, M Shields, R Grugan; A Murnin, J Clarke, G McParland.
J McElroy for McCabe (29 mins, inj); S Campbell for O’Hanlon (47); C McKeever for Clarke (72); E Raffertry for Murnin (77).
P Neilan (Roscommon).
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