Two wins away from glory now... Armagh slay the Rossies to march on to All-Ireland semi-finals

Clann Eireann clubmates provide the goals as Armagh march on to first semi since 2005

Conor Turbitt celebrates his second half goals with joyous Armagh fans on Hill 16. Picture: Sportsfile
Conor Turbitt celebrates his second half goals with joyous Armagh fans on Hill 16. Picture: Sportsfile (Harry Murphy / SPORTSFILE)

All-Ireland Senior Football Championship quarter-final: Armagh 2-12 Roscommon 0-12

YOU don’t win Sam Maguires in June so Armagh did what they had to do to stay in the race until July, when you do.

Even with Dublin gone, the Orchardmen might not be out-and-out favourites but they are there on merit and, after losing back-to-back quarter-finals on penalty shootouts over the past two seasons, Kieran McGeeney’s side deserve their shot at glory.

On Saturday McGeeney’s men outclassed a disappointing Roscommon side in every department. The Rossies – who lost Ruaidhri Fallon to a deserved first half red card - brought plenty of aggression but didn’t know whether to stick or twist in attack. Their much-vaunted forwards never got going because they always had men in orange jersey in their face or breathing down their neck.

Roscommon tried to pull Armagh defenders out of position by keeping the ball and creating overlaps but they lacked the pace to do that and the quality to take the opportunities that did come their way. They dropped four shots short in the first half and that is asking for trouble against Armagh who are at their electric best when they turn the ball over and break with pace.

Armagh had a point on the board inside 10 seconds. Niall Grimley leapt to win the throw-in, Rian O’Neill took his pass and fizzed the ball low to Conor Turbitt who stroked over a quality finish.

That settled the Ulster finalists and Roscommon laboured to come up with an answer. The Rossies needed their experienced players to fire but Armagh manned the defensive barricades. There were ‘boos’ from the Armagh supporters on a sparsely-populated Hill 16 as Roscommon kept the ball and Donie Smith shot well wide after a move that went nowhere.

Meanwhile, Armagh knew what they were about. Andrew Murnin pushed up to full-forward, Rian O’Neill pumped the ball in high and Murnin broke it down for Barry McCambridge who shoved it goalwards. Brian Stack blocked his effort – just about – but McCambridge would not be denied.

Armagh full-back Aaron McKay cuts out a Roscommon attack in the All-Ireland quarter-final. Picture: Sportsfile
Armagh full-back Aaron McKay cuts out a Roscommon attack in the All-Ireland quarter-final. Picture: Sportsfile (Harry Murphy / SPORTSFILE)

Grimley had added a second point for Armagh and Conor Cox had opened Roscommon’s account in the 17th minute when the Clann Eireann clubman popped up in attack again.

Daire Cregg’s shot dropped into the safe hands of Blaine Hughes and livewire Oisin Conaty chewed up yards with the ball in his hands as Armagh countered. McCambridge showed for his kickpass and off-loaded to Rory Grugan who looked up, probably for Turbitt or Murnin, but saw McCambridge running into space for the return pass.

Grugan popped the ball into space for him and McCambridge took it and hammered in a shot off the crossbar to give Armagh a 1-2 to 0-1 lead after 20 minutes.

Roscommon tried to reply but again they could find no way through the Armagh defence as Joe McElroy dived in to intercept a pass. Armagh broke and Fallon was yellow-carded for a late hit (not his last) on Tiernan Kelly.

Then Enda Smith kicked the ball straight to Ben Crealey and Aaron McKay and Rian O’Neill were both involved before Grugan picked out McCambridge again. This time he fisted a point.

O’Neill threw himself at Dylan Ruane’s boot and Kelly did the same when Eoin McCormack tried a shot with half-time approaching.

There were five points in it then but only two when the interval arrived and, after being second best, Roscommon would have taken that all day long. Cox (a free) and Niall Higgins gave them something to work with for the second half but another reckless challenge from Fallon – this time he was late on Grugan – meant they were down to 14 men at the break with Armagh ahead 1-3 to 0-4.

Two points and a man up, Armagh had the perfect platform to win the game and lay down a marker in the process but Roscommon came out fighting and scores from McCormack and Ruane levelled it early in the second half.

McCambridge – this time from a mark – restored Armagh’s lead and then Conaty, who was superb in the second half, took off down the right wing. Diarmuid Murtagh is no slouch but it seemed like he was walking after the Portadown native who left him for dead and stroked the first of four points over the black spot.

Stefan Campbell, again kept on the bench and throw in at half-time as Armagh looked to exploit their numerical advantage, added two more either side of Ruane score.

Conaty found space where there appeared to be none to score his second and when Turbitt stroked home their second goal it seemed that would be that.

Kieran McGeeney
Kieran McGeeney kisses his wife Maura O'Rahilly after his side's victory over Roscommon at Croke Park. Sadly, the Armagh manager found out earlier in the day that his uncle had passed away. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile (Harry Murphy / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

‘Turbo’ was alert to dispossess David Murray, the ball broke to Conaty and he played it back to the Clann Eireann forward who stroked an emphatic finish into the net.

It was 2-8 to 0-8 then but Roscommon were determined to keep fighting. Turbitt and Oisin O’Neill hit wides and Aidan Forker and Stack traded scores before Armagh manager McGeeney barked his displeasure at his skipper for giving the ball away cheaply.

Murtagh scored from the turnover and Cathal Henegan had a good chance to leave three in it – just a kick of the ball – but his shot drifted wide and that was as close as the Rossies came.

Armagh pulled away as Murnin and Grimley won them the possession they needed in midfield. There were two more from Conaty as Armagh booked their first All-Ireland semi-final in 19 long years.

Just two wins away from glory now…

Armagh: B Hughes; P Burns, A McKay, P McGrane; B McCambridge (1-2, 0-1 mark), T Kelly, A Forker (0-1); N Grimley (0-1), B Crealey; O Conaty (0-4), R O’Neill, J McElroy; R Grugan, A Murnin, C Turbitt (1-2, 0-1 free)

Subs: S Campbell for McGrane (HT) O O’Neill for R O’Neill (50), A Nugent for Grugan (54), C Mackin for Crealey (64), J Duffy for Forker (70)

Temporary sub: R McQuillan for Forker (50-57)

Yellow card: Kelly (50)

Roscommon: C Carroll; N Higgins (0-1), B Stack (0-1), R Dolan; D Murray, R Daly, E McCormack (0-1); E Smith, R Fallon; U Harney, D Murtagh (0-1), S Cunnane; D Cregg, C Cox (0-6, 0-5 frees), D Smith

Subs: D Ruane (0-2) for Murray (7), C Lennon for Harney (15), A McDermott (0-1) for D Smith (54), C Heneghan for R Daly (61), A Glennon for Cunnane (67)

Yellow cards: R Fallon (23 & 35)

Red card: R Fallon (35)

Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan)