Galway 2-21 Armagh 3-18 (Galway win 4-1 on penalties)
The sky darkened over Croke Park at half-three today and the heavens opened.
On the pitch below, Armagh and Galway were tangled in an unseemly brawl, which took on several movements before it was broken up completely and the teams made their way into the dressing-rooms on the Cusack Stand side of Croke Park.
Tempers flared. Sparks flew. At least one member of the Armagh party will have serious questions to answer.
It was an extraordinary conclusion to a game that seemed to be petering out towards an inevitable conclusion.
And that was before the penalties that resulted in Galway, belatedly and most dramatically, taking their place in an All-Ireland semi-final against Derry in two weeks.
Through that break, as an over-stimulated crowd in Croke Park searched for bearings, David Coldrick stood in conclave with his officials, discussing what action to take when the teams re-emerged.
In the end, he sent off Aidan Nugent and Seán Kelly but due to the stipulation that managers can field completely new team for extra-time, both started the new period with 15 men.
That such a situation had transpired in the first place was, frankly, incredible.
After 71 minutes, the stadium announcer revealed there would be eight minutes injury time in today’s All-Ireland quarter-final as Galway led by six points against an Armagh team already reduced to 14 men.
Then, from nothing, Armagh said two Hail Mary’s and two goals fell from the sky.
First, Aidan Nugent palmed into the net after Galway goalkeeper Conor Gleeson failed to deal with a speculative Stefan Campbell delivery.
Just two minutes were left when Conor Turbitt fired home at close range after Armagh had again resorted to route one and again, Galway had failed to deal with it.
There and then, Armagh looked as though they had a most unlikely victory but Galway came back at them and it took a monstrous free from all of 50 metres from Rian O’Neill to send us to extra-time.
That was when the row started, during which a particularly ugly passage resulted in one of the participants making contact with his hand to the face of Damien Comer.
All of which drama was at odds with the earlier passages of the game.
At half-time, the general feeling was that, for their sheer directness, Armagh should have been ahead, but that Galway had – after a slow start – grown into the game.
Maybe the four week break since their Connacht final win had had some effect.
But where Armagh were quick and direct, Galway were deliberate, almost to the point of being laboured, prodding for gaps and space for their long range shooters.
Armagh led 0-4 to 0-1 and seemed like they’d hit the pitch of the game far, far quicker.
Aidan Nugent, Rian O’Neill and Stefan Campbell all interchanged and profited from Armagh’s inclination to move the ball quickly by foot.
Galway were more inclined to use their runners, although they did almost catch Armagh out with a direct ball to Damien Comer missed by the otherwise solid Ethan Rafferty that the former fisted just wide.
James Morgan was tasked with shadowing, muting and generally obstructing Shane Walsh and but for one or two isolated flourishes, that part of Armagh’s defensive game plan worked perfectly.
But despite this marginalisation of Comer and Walsh, Matthew Tierney and Robert Finnerty grew into the game and at 0-7 each at half-time and Galway’s blow burning performance beginning to flicker, they seemed the likelier winners.
They got the score that confirmed as much five minutes into the second half.
Tierney crashed a shot off the Armagh cross bar but it rebounded straight to Dylan McHugh. The Armagh defenders surrounded him to prevent the shot but the Galway wing-back had the presence of mind to go back to Tierney, who shovelled a pass to Johnny Heaney who scored from close range.
The next hint that the day would be Galway’s came when Armagh’s Greg McCabe was sent off for a high challenge on Matthew Tierney.
That was all before the opportune goals that Armagh got, before the brawl and before the penalties.
Walsh, Comer and Finnerty each dispatched theirs clinically, with Stefan Campbell and Conor Turbitt missing for Armagh.
That left Tierney with the chance to win it and he duly did, sliding his penalty low to Ethan Rafferty’s right.
On a mad, mad, mad day in Croke Park, it was a probably fitting way to end it all.
Scorers – Galway: S Walsh 0-6 (5f), C McDaid 1-2, R Finerty 0-4, D Comer 0-3, J Heaney 1-0, M Tierney 0-2, K Molloy, P Conroy, P Kelly, F Ó Laoí 0-1 each. Armagh: R Grugan 1-3 (0-2f), A Nugent 1-2 (0-1m), C Turbitt 1-1, R O’Neill 0-4 (3f), S Campbell 0-3, C O’Neill, J Óg Burns, E Woods, J Kieran, J Hall 0-1 each.
Galway: C Gleeson; L Silke, S Kelly, J Glynn; D McHugh, J Daly, K Molloy; P Conroy, C McDaid; P Kelly, M Tierney, J Heanaey; R Finnerty, D Comer, S Walsh. Subs: Ó Laoí for McDaid (blood sub 49 – 54), Ó Laoí for P Kelly (69), N Daly for Finnerty (74), O Gallagher for Walsh (70+9), S Walsh (e-t), R Finnerty (e-t), B Mannion (e-t), O Gallagher for Heaney (83), J Foley for Silke (85), C Sweeney for McHugh (90)
Armagh: E Rafferty; J Morgan, G McCabe, A McKay; C O’Neill, A Forker, C O’Neill; S Sheridan, B Crealey; R Grugan, S Campbell, A Murnin; A Nugent, R O’Neill, J Duffy. Subs: Connaire Mackin for Sheridan (44), C Turbitt for Murnin (44), Ciarán Mackin for McKay (55), E Woods for Duffy (68), J Kieran for Burns (68), N Rowland (e-t), J Óg Burns (e-t) M Shields for Forker (74), J Hall for Grugan (82), J Duffy for McKay (85)
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).