Friday 24 May 2019

McGeeney hails Armagh 'character' after late fightback

Armagh 2-16 Clare 1-15

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney. Photo: Sportsfile
Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney. Photo: Sportsfile

Orla Bannon

Having watched his team blitz Clare in a fast and furious finish, Kieran McGeeney floated the idea that this is only the beginning for a new wave in Armagh.

Staring at a four-point deficit after David Tubridy's 67th-minute goal, Armagh hit 1-5 without reply and Clare folded in the face of an irresistible force.

Rory Grugan of Armagh in action against Pearse Lillis of Clare. Photo: Sportsfile
Rory Grugan of Armagh in action against Pearse Lillis of Clare. Photo: Sportsfile

There was nothing particularly special about the previous 69 minutes to suggest something remarkable was about to happen. But from the second substitute Joe McElroy found the net, Armagh saw a chink of light and bolted towards it, landing four points from play during six minutes of injury-time to book a place in this morning's fourth round All-Ireland SFC qualifier draw.

"I'm delighted with the character they showed because that sort of stuff is very hard to put into people," said McGeeney.

"It's either there or it isn't. I think it's a fantastic statement by that group of players. We had one bad game this year (against Fermanagh) and that was when they were went down to 14 men and we're still getting s**t. I have nothing but admiration for these boys. They never give up and they are starting to show that."

Armagh dug themselves into a very large hole, kicking 18 wides and for very long spells, Clare played with more purpose and end product.

Keelan Sexton of Clare in action against Gregory McCabe of Armagh. Photo: Sportsfile
Keelan Sexton of Clare in action against Gregory McCabe of Armagh. Photo: Sportsfile

Once they lost the kick-out after McElroy's goal, the momentum swung. Points from Orchard captain Rory Grugan and subs Gavin McParland and Ross McQuillan helped put the gloss on an incredible afternoon.

"It's a new group of players and I do think if the supporters give them time, I do think there's definitely hope for them going up and competing with the top teams," added McGeeney. "We have that potential. We have a lot of pace in our team. It might be a wee bit away at the minute, but I think they're showing great character and great desire for it."

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Armagh made the start they wanted in a lively opening half and raced into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead but Clare found their feet and scored five unanswered points, finding a lot of space right through the middle of Armagh's defence, and led 0-9 to 0-7 at the break.

They still led 0-13 to 0-8 heading into the final quarter and that's when things got really interesting with Andrew Murnin's smart turn and low finish, from Aidan Forker's threaded pass, starting the first Armagh revival in the 56th minute. Clare thought they'd closed it out when David Tubridy hit the net with three minutes to go, after his initial penalty was saved, but they failed to score again.

Rory Grugan was immense in the last 10 minutes and once McElroy hit the net, Armagh threw themselves at the finishing line. Clare midfielder Gary Brennan was heroic at times, but was at a loss to explain how they let this one get away from them so quickly.

"Everyone was trying to get on the ball and get us up the field, but we were probably rushing it a bit and giving them more opportunities to go ahead, and all of a sudden we go from three up to three down very quickly," he said.

"You'd have to credit Armagh too, they took their chances when it really mattered.

"But there's a real feeling it was a self-inflicted defeat from us, you know."


Man of the match

Rory Grugan ( Armagh)

The undisputed heartbeat of this team. Scored six points, four from play, and three of them late on were crucial. The two quick-fire points within a minute signalled Armagh were not going to let this one go.

Match statistics

Wides: Armagh 18 (11 first half); Clare 11(6)

Frees: Armagh 16 (9 first half); Clare 20 (12)



Scorers - Armagh: R Grugan 0-6 (2f); Andrew Murnin 1-1; N Grimley 0-4 (4f); J McElroy 1-0; R McShane, A Forker, R McQuillan, G McParland, C Vernon 0-1 each. Clare: D Tubridy 1-3; E Cleary 0-3 (1f); J Malone 0-3; E Courtney, P Lillis 0-2 each; K Sexton, C O'Connor 0-1 each.

Armagh - B Hughes 8; P Burns 6, A McKay 7, G McCabe 6; M Shields 6, B Donaghy 6, C Mackin 6; C Vernon 7, S Sheridan 7; R Grugan 9, J Hall 7, N Grimley 7; R McShane 6, A Murnin 7, A Forker 7. Subs: N Rowland 6 for Mackin (h-t), R Owens 6 for McKay (42), R McQuillan 6 for Hall (50), J McElroy 7 for Sheridan (55), G McParland 6 for McShane (65), J Duffy NR for Shields (70, BC).

Clare - R Eyres 6; G Kelly 6, C Brennan 6, E Collins 7; C O'Dea 7, A Fitzgerald 6, P Lillis 7; G Brennan 8, C O'Connor 7; K Malone 6, E Cleary 7, J Malone 7; E Courtney 7, K Sexton 7, D Tubridy 8. Subs: K Harnett 6 for Collins (h-t), K Roche 6 for Eyres (50), C ó hAiniféin 6 for O'Dea (57, BC), G O'Brien 6 for Fitzgerald (63), G Cooney 6 for Sexton (65).

Ref - F Kelly (Longford)

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