Mulholland hails 'big step forward'
Galway 1-11 Armagh 0-9
This was a huge step forward for Galway football and an equally significant setback for an Armagh side who may have been lulled into a false sense of security after their facile wins over Leitrim and Wicklow.
In contrast, Galway's unconvincing and edgy victories over Waterford and Tipperary created new levels of pessimism and manager Alan Mulholland admitted that he was taken back by the scale of the criticism.
"If people aren't telling us we are the worst Galway football team of all time they are telling us remember 2001, we are going to win the All-Ireland," said Mulholland, who had supporters pointing out to him that the last time they defeated Armagh in the qualifiers they also met Cork in the next round on their way to winning the All-Ireland.
"Look, the reality is somewhere in between. We are a developing side, we have a lot of young players. There are a lot of marquee Galway players not in that dressing-room anymore.
"It was always going to be a difficult transition to get them confident and playing good football. But this is a big step for us."
Armagh manager Paul Grimley admitted their huge wins over Wicklow and Leitrim did little for them.
"Right up to a half an hour before the game we were warning the players. We were very cautious – although we had come into the game with reasonable victories in our last two matches, we also realised there was a sting in Galway's tail," he said.
Grimley had hoped to bring them to Croke Park to take on Cork next Saturday but said he was anxious to stay on for another year and develop this side further.
"This is the job I always wanted and I still want it. I want to hold on to it. But I'll do what's best for Armagh. It is up again so it will have to go to the clubs of the county," he said.
The foundation for Galway's win came from a midfield pairing of Paul Conroy and U-21 Tom Flynn, and intelligent use of the ball low into the attack.
Galway won most of the collisions and, with Armagh opting for a two-man full-forward line, Galway kept three in their full-back line throughout.
Donal O'Neill kept a tight rein on Jamie Clarke and found Johnny Duane coming back to lend a hand as Armagh's biggest threat was minimised.
Galway were three points to the good by the time Tony Kernan finally got Armagh off the mark with a free after 12 minutes and there was a point between the sides when the key score of the game came after 24 minutes.
Conroy dropped a 50-metre free from the left just short and Danny Cummins, although possibly inside the square, rose highest to fist the ball across goal and into the left corner.
That put Galway ahead by 1-4 to 0-3 and two points from play from Michael Martin pushed them further ahead.
Grimley responded with a couple of substitutions and one of them, Stefan Campbell, got the first of three points and Aaron Kernan also found his range to leave them 1-6 to 0-5 adrift at the break.
Points from Campbell and Ethan Rafferty halved the deficit on the restart but Galway responded well as Martin cut back inside in the right corner and floated over the point of the match after 48 minutes.
It was a score which inspired Galway and deflated Armagh in equal measure.
Campbell hit back with a third point but Michael Meehan tacked on two more frees while Armagh managed just one score in the final 21 minutes, a late point from McKeever.
In between Galway played excellent possession football and Conroy and Gary Sice burst forward to fire over points.
"Having Armagh taking care of Leitrim by such a big margin and Wicklow as well, this really was set up for us," added Mulholland.
"Them coming down here, maybe lulled into a false sense of security after those two victories. We knew we had a big performance in us and thankfully, we did perform when it mattered most."
Scorers – Galway: M Meehan 0-4 (4fs), M Martin 0-3, D Cummins 1-0, P Conroy, S Armstrong (1f), J Duane , G Sice 0-1 each. Armagh: S Campbell 0-3, C McKeever 0-2, T Kernan (1f), A Kernan (1f), E Rafferty, C Rafferty 0-1 each.
Galway – M Breathnach 7; J Duane 8, F Hanley 7, D O'Neill 9; S Denvir 6, G O'Donnell 7, G Sice 7; P Conroy 8, T Flynn 9; J O'Brien 6, S Armstrong 7, C Doherty 6; M Martin 8, M Meehan 8, D Cummins 8. Subs: C Forde for O'Neill (43-45 blood), S Walsh 6 for O'Brien (57), F O Curraoin 6 for Armstrong (62), M Farragher 6 for Sice (63-65 blood), A Varley 6 for Meehan (67), M Farragher 6 for Martin (68), M Martin for Conroy (68 blood).
Armagh – P McEvoy 6; P McKeown 6, B Donaghy 6, J Morgan 6; A Kernan 7, C McKeever 7, M Shields 7; J Lavery 6, S Harold 6; C Rafferty 7, K Dyas 7, E Rafferty 6; J Clarke 6, E McVerry 6, T Kernan 7. Subs: S Campbell 8 for C Rafferty (28), K Toner 6 for Harold (33), F Moriarty 6 for McKeown (h-t), A Forker 6 for McVerry (55), S Forker 6 for E Rafferty (62).
REF – R Hickey (Clare)