Armagh a match for anyone but quarter-final will start on an “even keel” says Orchard hero Campbell

‘Soupy’ equaliser sees Armagh progress to their All-Ireland last eight for third time in four years

Stefan Campbell's role in the Armagh team is one of those constantly changing. Picture by Philip Walsh
Stefan Campbell scored the equaliser that meant Armagh progressed to the All-Ireland quarter-final

ARMAGH will be a match for whoever they come up against in the All-Ireland quarter-finals, says Stefan Campbell who adds a note of caution that the game will start on “an even keel”.

Campbell came off the bench on Sunday to score the crucial equaliser that secured a draw against Galway and meant Armagh topped Group One and took the prize of an automatic quarter-final berth.

The forthcoming game on June 29/30 will be the Clan na Gael star’s fourth appearance in a last-eight duel but he has yet to play in an All-Ireland semi-final. Donegal (by a point in 2014), Galway (penalties in 2022) and Monaghan (penalties last year) have all edged the Orchardmen out but Armagh still believe they can break through the glass ceiling.

“We haven’t got over the line but we’ve showed what we’ve learned from previous years – especially in the last three or four games,” said Campbell.

“We haven’t been beat in 70 minutes or 90 minutes in a long time so we’ll be a match for anybody but anybody who meets us in the quarters… It’s going to be an even keel, isn’t it?

“We got the rest last year and we got pegged (by Monaghan) so we’ll go back to the training field, watch the games at the weekend, get a bit of homework and then… who knows?”

Armagh and Galway were neck-and-neck for the first half-hour in Sligo on Sunday but Padraic Joyce’s side pulled away and were five points up at the hour mark. Campbell, who had been ever-present throughout Armagh’s Championship campaign, wasn’t selected to start the game but he replaced Ciaran Higgins at half-time to reinforce the Orchardmen’s attacking threat.

Armagh's Aidan Nugent (left) went public this week about delays in players getting paid expenses. Pic Philip Walsh
A lightning break from fellow substitute Aidan Nugent set up Campbell for his injury-time score

“Maybe I didn’t have the best game in Derry? Maybe I wasn’t at the level that the rest of the lads were at, but I got the score today,” he said with a smile.

“But it wouldn’t have mattered who came on there. There’s boys who have played in the first 15 in training over the last seven-to-10 days and they didn’t get on. The squad is deep, we’ve proved that in every round and if it wasn’t me, it would have been somebody else.”

Armagh were in serious trouble as the game neared the hour-mark but they forced their way back into it thanks to a Tiernan Kelly goal. However, the Tribesmen rallied and led by a point deep in injury-time before Aidan Nugent’s run burst through their defence and he passed to Campbell who fisted over the equaliser.

“It was mentioned at half-time that we only needed a draw so that’s why I popped it over the bar,” said ‘Soupy’.

“We were a couple of points down and the plan was to score, win the kickout and get a double score and we were back in the game. Unfortunately it didn’t pan out that way but I think we’ve showed, going back to the Down game, that we have a lot more composure in the squad this year.

“We did rush a few shots at the start of the second half but the goal was the big score. It gave us the belief, we were able to press up, they got a bit edgy for the next two or three minutes and we got another score after that.

“We sensed that they weren’t marking us as tight, especially on the sides and they were allowing certain players space to run into. Once we followed into the second phase we were able to get in behind and thankfully we were able to get the equaliser and the draw we needed.”