GAA Football

Armagh skipper Rory Grugan: Ending our losing streak against Down doesn't mean we're guaranteed success

Down's Darren O'Hagan and Armagh's Rory Grugan in action during the Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final at Pairc Esler. Picture by Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

BREAKING their four-year losing streak doesn’t mean Armagh are now guaranteed a “massive run” in the Ulster Championship cautioned Orchard skipper Rory Grugan after his county’s dramatic win over Down on Sunday.

Armagh saw off their neighbours by a single point after an epic struggle at Pairc Esler which remained in the balance until the final whistle in extra-time. Now Grugan and his team-mates face Cavan – winners against Monaghan on Saturday night – in the provincial semi-finals on June 2 and the Ballymacnab star who was part of the Armagh line-up that lost to the Breffnimen back in 2016 expect another hammer-and-tongs battle.

“Just because we've won our first one in a few years doesn't mean we're going to go on this massive run,” he said.

“We all saw how impressive Cavan were against Monaghan so it's a case of looking at the many areas of improvement from today and seeing where we can do better.

“Then we'll be looking at Cavan and hoping to take our chance, it (the semi-finals) are somewhere we haven't been in a while so it would just be nice to try and make the most of it.

“We're one game away (from an Ulster final) but we all watched Cavan and saw how impressive they were and our record hasn't been great against them in the Ulster championship this last few years.

“So we'll be up against it but we'll definitely be motivated. You're just one game away from an Ulster final which is a big thing and we haven't been there since 2008, so it's been a long time coming but you can't look that far ahead or you're going to get caught.”

After failing to capitalise on a winning position against Down in normal time, Armagh had trailed by three points in extra-time before Kieran McGeeney’s side surged ahead again after the introduction of Andrew Murnin and went on to win by a point.

“It is a boost because of the character we showed,” said Grugan.

“We've been in games where those kind of leads have slipped away and we haven't been able to turn the corner. The beauty was we had the extra-time to do it.

“There was a couple of League games where we slipped away and we hadn't the time to rectify it, whereas we had the extra time today.

“We did show a lot of character which we can use as a launchpad going into the semi-final.

Unsurprisingly, Grugan breathed a massive sigh of relief (once his lungs had recovered from 90 minutes of football) when referee Anthony Nolan finally blew the full-time whistle on Sunday.

“The big feeling is relief,” said the Ballymacnab forward.

“Not just personally because of my own performance but also being in a winnable position with 10-15 minutes to go with a man up, it would have been a hard one to swallow if we'd given that away.

“Also being three points down in extra-time, I thought we showed brilliant character in the second half (of extra-time), the impact from the bench and the way young players stood up.

“It was brilliant even watching that from the sidelines, I got a taste of it when I was on the bench there for the last five minutes and there were a lot of nerves there. We like to keep the fans on the edge of their seats.”

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