A day of mixed emotions for Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney as they reach their first All-Ireland semi-final since 2005

‘Geezer’ mourns the loss of his uncle on the eve of All-Ireland quarter-final

Kieran McGeeney
Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney kisses his wife Maura O'Rahilly after his side's victory in the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship quarter-final match between Armagh and Roscommon at Croke Park in Dublin. 'Geezer' found out earlier in the day that he's uncle had passed away Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile (Harry Murphy / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)
All-Ireland Senior Football Championship quarter-final: Armagh 2-12 Roscommon 0-12

From Brendan Crossan at Croke Park

FOR the last number of years, the Armagh footballers have been involved in what Rory Grugan once ruefully described as the ‘Fight of the Night’.

The Orchard men have played their part in an endless number of classic matches - but could never quite get over the line in any of them.

Every Armagh player could rhyme them off at this stage. Monaghan down at the sun-burnt Marshes in 2021. You could go further back to Roscommon in O’Moore Park in 2018. Galway in 2022. Derry in 2023 and Monaghan the same year. Donegal in 2024.

Saturday’s All-Ireland quarter-final against Roscommon at Croke Park was nowhere near being a classic; if truth be told, it was a rancid spectacle.

Some horrendous passes, a host of horrible wides, handling errors galore, sloppy turnovers – but Armagh cared not a jot at the end as they booked their first All-Ireland semi-final spot in 19 years against 14-man Roscommon.

Kieran McGeeney wasn’t wrong when he described it as Armagh’s “worst performance in Croke Park”.

When Stefan Campbell kicked a cheap ball away in the second half – he certainly wasn’t the only one – ‘Geezer’ couldn’t have thrown his match programme to the turf with any more force.

Despite all the pockmarks, it was an All-Ireland quarter-final they certainly deserved to win, but it was also a day of mixed emotions for the Armagh manager who was mourning the loss of his uncle – Peter Kelly – on the eve of the game.

“Mum and dad didn’t tell me last night - it was only this morning,” said a visibly shaken McGeeney in the press room.

“It was tragic circumstances. Peter was a good man – his son would be one of my best mates. So, this morning was a bit rough to be honest.

“The family were supposed to have a surprise party for his sister tonight. Peter was a great man, a great character. He [normally] would have been roaring and shouting at the TV.

“We’d great support from all the Kelly household. A close family. It’s a tough day...”

In a knock-out game that they never looked like losing and were never behind in, there was a rationed sprinkling of excellent displays that acted as a soothing balm to the Armagh manager.

“It was probably our worst performance in Croke Park but I suppose from the fellas’ point of view it probably shows how far they’ve come on and the way they can play,” said the 2002 All-Ireland winning captain.

“We’ve played much better, our skills were poor. Going forward today we missed a lot of chances. With the extra man [Roscommon’s Ruairdhrí Fallon was sent off just before the break] we could have made it a lot easier.

“In saying that, Barry McCambridge, TJ Kelly, Oisin Conaty – were among a lot good performances.

“I’m delighted for the fellas, they’ve got the monkey off their back and hopefully they’ll go out the next day and really express themselves.”

‘Geezer’ was right to name-check McCambidge who hit 1-2 with his brilliant goal finish coming in the 20th minute which unsettled the Rossies.

With number five on his back, the Clann Eireann was perpetual motion, often popping up at full-forward and making the pitch big at all times

Oisin Conaty has been an unbelievable catalyst for the Armagh attack this season, with the Portadown man hitting four second-half points from play, while Conor Turbitt raised a green flag in the 52nd minute to ram home the Orchard men’s advantage.