Football

Rian O’Neill hails resilient Armagh’s recent Championship record

Orchard county have not lost over 70 minutes in last 17 games

CYC ambassador and Armagh footballer Rian O'Neill at the CYC Launch 2024 at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile
CYC ambassador and Armagh footballer Rian O'Neill at the CYC Launch 2024 at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile (Ben McShane / SPORTSFILE)

Rian O’Neill says he takes huge heart from Armagh’s excellent Championship record - over 70 minutes.

Just one county, Tyrone last year, has beaten Armagh over 70 minutes of Championship football in their last 17 games.

That record stretches right back to 2022 when they lost an Ulster opener to Donegal in the regulation 70 minutes.

Armagh's four other defeats in the Championship across the 2022, 2023 and 2024 seasons all came in 'pot luck' penalty shoot-outs.

Kieran McGeeney's side showed their steely side again by coming from behind to draw with Galway on Sunday - locking down top spot in their group and an All-Ireland quarter-final spot.

Speaking at the launch of the GAA’s Continental Youth Championships on Monday, which will be played in Boston in July, O’Neill said he’s proud of being so difficult to beat.

"You sort of think back on that and then it comes into your head that you actually haven't been put away in normal time or extra-time even," said O'Neill.

"At the end of the day, we've still been the ones sitting at home when teams are playing in an All-Ireland semi-final or something but look, I do think penalties are a bit of a lottery.

"I don't know if it's the right answer to finish games or not but coming from someone who has lost four of them, I would say that, wouldn't I?"



Galway gave Armagh a helping hand on Sunday, coughing up a poor goal at a vital stage in the second half which ignited Armagh's revival.

But O'Neill was still proud of his team who eventually nicked a draw with a late, late Stefan Campbell point.

"We have an awful lot of experience in the team and we have been there and topped the group last year, been in the last two quarter-finals and in the last two Ulster finals, so we definitely have that experience," said O'Neill.

"In those last few minutes of games it's all about getting the shot off, getting the ball to the shooters and we worked it lovely down the wing and were able to get the ball over the bar."

Bookmakers responded to Armagh's latest positive result by installing them as third favourites for the All-Ireland.

The Sam Maguire Cup represents the Holy Grail for boss McGeeney who has been in charge for 10 seasons.

Asked if they can get over the line under the former captain at some stage, O'Neill nodded.

"Yeah, absolutely," he said. "We've complete faith in the manager. He has a great backroom around him and he instils that belief in us that we're there and we're as good as what's around and we firmly believe that.

n attendance, from left, Armagh footballer Rian O'Neill, Waterford camogie player Niamh Rockett, CYC chairperson Bernie Connaughton, Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Jarlath Burns, O'Neills financial controller James Towell, former Dublin Ladies footballer Lyndsey Davey and Galway hurler Evan Niland at the CYC Launch 2024 at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile
n attendance, from left, Armagh footballer Rian O'Neill, Waterford camogie player Niamh Rockett, CYC chairperson Bernie Connaughton, Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Jarlath Burns, O'Neills financial controller James Towell, former Dublin Ladies footballer Lyndsey Davey and Galway hurler Evan Niland at the CYC Launch 2024 at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile (Ben McShane / SPORTSFILE)

"At the end of the day, we have to show up in these big games and give a good account of ourselves and hopefully that's enough but if you're asking me if we believe, absolutely, 100 percent."

Pundits were critical of Armagh's poor first-half on Sunday and it was no surprise that McGeeney kept them in the dressing-room for nearly 20 minutes.

It didn't spark any great response initially as they went from two down at the interval to five behind with 15 minutes remaining.

Then came Armagh's game changing goal from Tiernan Kelly after a poor Galway kick-out was intercepted.

"There actually wasn't that much said at half-time, it was more a case that we didn't play up to scratch and they were addressing a few things," said O'Neill.

"I think we ran over the time a bit but it wasn't an intentional thing at all, we just ran out of time. Look, we knew ourselves we hadn't played well, we didn't need anyone to tell us. We just needed a bit of a gee up and thankfully it worked out."

Armagh will return to action on Saturday or Sunday week to chase a first All-Ireland quarter-final win since 2005.

Asked if the six quarter-final defeats since then have left a cloud over the team, O'Neill shook his head.

"I don't know if it leaves a residue as such," he said. "I think there's a bit of hurt there surely, but you've just got to park that and move on. That's in the past, you can't change that now. I think everyone in the panel, everyone in the squad, the management included, has parked those defeats."