GAA Football

Armagh recover from Michael Quinlivan goal to beat Tipperary

Armagh's goalscorer Jamie Clarke with Tipperary's Josh Keane after the final whistle at Thurles Picture by Columba O'Hare
Andy Watters

All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Qualifying round 3B: Tipperary 1-15 Armagh 1-17

ARMAGH got going when the going got tough on Saturday evening.

Four points down, away from home and under the cosh after bogeyman Michael Quinlivan had found the back of their net, the Orchardmen found strength when they might have lost heart.

From then on there was only one winner and the character and determination Armagh showed to reel the hosts in augurs well for their future.

After a lacklustre first half that ended with them two points behind, the Orchardmen abandoned their sweeper system and attacked relentlessly in the second.

Impressively fit, they charging over the hallowed Thurles turf in an orange wave that swept away their hosts and took them to the brink of the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

With Niall Grimley (0-8) again outstanding in midfield alongside Stephen Sheridan, Kieran McGeeney’s side weathered a late siege to clinch a deserved win.

Afterwards, Maor Uisce Paddy McKeever admitted he was “delighted and relieved” with a third Championship victory on-the-trot that has banished the blues of the Ulster loss to Down.

“It’s good value for the supporters, but it’s nervy stuff at times,” said McKeever, part of an Armagh management team that includes fellow 2002 All-Ireland winners John Toal, Justin McNulty and Paul McGrane.

“I thought we were good value for the victory, they had a few frees near the end but we were hitting them on the break and we could have had another couple of goals. We had a disallowed one in the first half as well but we still have a lot of work to do.”

McKeever says the spirit Armagh displayed on Saturday – and in their win over Westmeath the previous weekend – is a result of the criticism the team has endured over recent seasons.

“It’s borne out of some of the losses that they’ve had and some of the collective criticism they’ve received from all quarters,” he said.

“They were going to define what their year was about. Again it’s only one step but they’ve rallied round each other and, game by game, we’re improving. We’re going to be going up another level, there was improvement there today but we have a lot of work to do.”

Meanwhile, in a reference to his side’s last minute winner in the League, Tipperary manager Liam Kearns admitted Armagh’s victory was “karma”.

“They deserved on that on the basis of us catching them in the League,” he said.

“It’s probably karma, how good they are time will tell. They were good enough to beat us anyway.”

The Kerry native has been frustrated by the loss of key personnel this season and will think long and hard before signing on for a third year.

“I haven’t had a full team here all year,” he said.

“I said that after we beat Cavan, so it’s not a case of just saying it after we lose tonight. We just haven’t had the players right and those that we got back from injury weren’t physically fit because they weren’t able to do the work that you need to do to play Championship football.

“Michael Quinlivan was a huge example of that. Poor oul Mikey has had injuries all year and he wasn’t able to have any run at the training.”

Apart from his goal, Quinlivan was a peripheral figure on Saturday but Tipperary made inroads into the Armagh defence throughout the first half. They led 0-10 to 0-8 at the break and could have further ahead.

Armagh midfielder Grimley had kept his side in touch with four points, three from frees and the game was level four times before a Josh Keane double and another from Liam Casey saw Tipp make the interval with the noses in front.

Armagh began the second half with much more purpose. Gavin McParland, who had been denied a perfectly good first half ‘goal’ because of referee Paddy Neilan’s tenuous grasp of the advantage rule, swung over the first of two excellent points to halve the deficit.

McParland’s strength and pace caused the Tipp defence problems all evening but Tipp hit back quickly. Philip Austin, Robbie Kiely and Conor Sweeney were all involved in the move that allowed Quinlivan to find space on the left and smash in a shot that beat Blaine Hughes at his near post.

Armagh were suddenly in danger of being cast adrift and with his side’s Championship future hanging in the balance, McGeeney opted to go on the attack.

The visitors pushed up on the Tipperary kick-outs and hit them hard when they tried to run out of defence. Tipp found themselves smothered in their own half and wilted as Armagh took control.

Four more points from Grimley had them level and after Keane and McParland had swapped scores, Jamie Clarke popped up to send Armagh ahead for the first time just after the hour mark.

Tipp had lost Jack Kennedy to a black card by the time Conor Sweeney leveled but Armagh’s superior bench strength was telling and Stefan Campbell curled over a point to leave it 0-16 to 1-12 before Neilan’s muddled thinking denied the home side a scoreable free.

The Roscommon official opted to play an advantage that wasn’t there and Armagh capitalized clinically.

Sheridan raced up the left and, with Tipperary’s legs gone, McParland broke into acres on the other flank. He took Sheridan’s pass and found Clarke who dummied goalkeeper Ciaran Kenrick on his left foot and stroked ball into the net with his right.

Sweeney and Keane landed frees to keep Tipp in touch and, although Sheridan fisted one over to leave three in it, there was drama to the finish.

Austin had the Armagh goal in his sights but Neilan needlessly stopped him in his tracks to award a free for an off-the-ball foul by Ciaran McKeever.

Quinlivan smashed the ball goalward but it was scrambled out for a 45. Another high ball came in and was lashed away by Campbell. Another followed and this time goalkeeper Hughes grabbed it under his bar with the catch of the season.

There was still time for another frantic clearance and Austin lashed a shot over the bar in the dying seconds.

Armagh held on and the final whistle brought roars of delight from their legions of fans and discontent from the Tipp faithful.

The Thurles sound system boomed out the Orchard county anthem as an orange horde invaded the field to celebrate with the players.

‘It’s my owwwwn Irish home, faaaaar across the foam…’

The boys from the county Armagh stood tall on Saturday and it will take a good side to end their summer.

Armagh: B Hughes; B Donaghy, J Morgan, C Vernon; G McCabe (0-1), P Hughes, A Forker (0-1); S Sheridan (0-1), N Grimley (0-8, 0-5 frees, 0-1 45); C O'Hanlon, M Shields. R Grugan (0-2, 0-1 free); A Murnin, J Clarke (1-1), G McParland (0-2)

Subs: J McElroy for McCabe (28), S Campbell (0-1) for O'Hanlon (46), C McKeever for Clarke (72), E Rafferty for Murnin (78)

Yellow cards: O’Hanlon (45), McParland (67), McKeever (75)

Tipperary: C Kenrick; E Moloney, A Campbell, P Codd, B Maher, R Kiely, J Feehan; L Casey (0-2), G Hannigan; J Keane (0-4, 0-2 frees), K O'Halloran (0-2, 0-1 free), B Fox (0-1); C Sweeney (0-3 frees), J Kennedy (0-2 frees), M Quinlivan (1-0)

Subs: P Austin (0-1) for Hannigan (ht), L Boland for Moloney (48), D Foley for O'Halloran (72), L McGrath for Boland (72)

Black card: Kennedy replaced by Hannigan (47)

Yellow card: Kiely (52)

Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon)

Attendance: 6,823

Star man

Niall Grimley (Armagh)

THE Madden clubman has found a rich vein of form with 15 points in the three Qualifier wins since he was introduced as a substitute in the loss to Down in early June.

His partnership with Stephen Sheridan in midfield is improving by the game and, allied to the strong, direct running of his team-mates, his nerveless accuracy from dead balls is a potent combination. Sheridan landed eight points – four in each half – on Saturday to see Armagh to a confidence-boosting win.

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