After three hours of football a Rory Grugan point separates Armagh and Galway going into trilogy battle

Murnin back for Armagh and Finnerty and Kelly return as rivals face off for quarter-final spot

Rory Grugan and Armagh fans celebrate victory over Galway. Picture: John Merry
Rory Grugan and Armagh fans celebrate victory over Galway last year. Picture: John Merry

All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Group One, round three: Armagh v Galway (Sunday, Markievicz Park, 1.45pm, live on RTE)

DAMIEN Comer misses out but, to the delight of the Galway faithful, skipper Sean Kelly and forward Rob Finnerty are named to start against Armagh in Sligo.

Depending on who you asked, the experienced trio were ruled out of this winner-takes-all group finale so two out of three ain’t bad for the Tribesmen.

Meanwhile, Andrew Murnin is named at full-forward for Armagh who are without two men who add power and pace to their half-back line in Conor O’Neill and Ciaran Mackin. Ciaran Higgins, who performed a man-marking role on Galway’s Matthew Tierney in Carrick-on-Shannon last year, comes into the team while Stefan Campbell is listed among the subs.

In 2022 there were fights, thrills, spills and penalties as Galway won a breathless All-Ireland quarter-final. Last year (at this same stage) Armagh took their revenge and the winner on Sunday will go straight through to the quarter-final stage while the loser will have to navigate the treacherous preliminary quarter-final route.

Both counties have beaten Derry. Galway did so on home soil and although Gareth McKinless’s red card undermined Derry’s chances, the Tribesmen were already looking the better team by that stage.

Armagh and Galway go head-to-head this Sunday in Carrick-on-Shannon.
Armagh and Galway go head-to-head again this Sunday in Sligo

Armagh ran Derry ragged a couple of weeks ago and go West high on confidence and full of scoring threats. With towering midfield pair Niall Grimley and Ben Crealey in fine form you’d expect Armagh to press the Galway kickout hard and win primary possession for their forward unit led by Conor Turbitt who’ll have tenacious man-marker Johnny McGrath for company in Sligo.

Evergreen Paul Conroy continues to impress in Galway’s engineroom and he’ll have Kelly – who netted a fine individual goal in last year’s game – alongside him. Up front free-taker Finnerty shares the scoring burden with the ever-dangerous Shane Walsh.

Over around three hours’ of football in the previous two seasons, a Rory Grugan free is all that separates these evenly-matched sides. Armagh’s displays against Westmeath and Derry make them favourites and although that tag doesn’t always sit well with the Orchardmen they get the nod to shade it.

But it won’t be over ‘til it’s over, so hold onto your hats.

Armagh: B Hughes; B McCambridge, A McKay, P McGrane, C Higgins, T Kelly, A Forker; N Grimley, B Crealey; J McElroy, R O’Neill, O Conaty; R Grugan, A Murnin, C Turbitt

Subs: E Rafferty, P Burns, G McCabe, R McQuillan, D McMullan, S McPartlan, O O’Neill, J Duffy, A Nugent, S Campbell, J Og Burns

Galway: C Gleeson; J McGrath, S Fitzgerald, J Glynn; D McHugh, J Daly, L Silke; P Conroy, S Kelly; M Tierney, J Maher, C Darcy; R Finnerty, S Walsh, C McDaid

Subs: C Flaherty, S Mulkerrin, E Kelly, D O’Flaherty, K Molloy, C Hernon, P Egan, C Sweeney, J Heaney, T Culhane, L O Conghaile

Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)