GAA Football

'If we don't win on Sunday, beating Tyrone is for nothing...' Armagh have to do it again says Stefan Campbell

Stefan Campbell was man of the match against Tyrone in the first round of Qualifiers. Pic Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

IF Armagh fail to back up their performance on Sunday, then beating Tyrone last weekend was all for nothing, says half-forward dynamo Stefan Campbell.

Eight weeks after the Tir Chonaill men knocked them out of the Ulster Championship, the Orchardmen travel to Clones for a rematch and Campbell, man of the match last weekend as Armagh got back off the canvas to knock out reigning All-Ireland champions Tyrone, says wasted chances early in the second half cost his team in Ballybofey.

“When you look back on that game, we felt we left a lot of scores behind us,” said Campbell.

“Especially in the 10 minutes after half-time, we could not only have got level, we could have went ahead if we had taken our chances. We didn’t and ultimately Donegal made us pay.

“We came away with nothing and they went down the other end and kicked two or three points and then got the goal and at that stage it was game-over.”

Campbell is absolutely correct in his assessment. Aidan Nugent had a couple of chances and Rian O’Neill didn’t get the benefit of any doubt when he scooped the ball into the Donegal net.

But alongside that, Donegal were dominant at midfield that day and Armagh lacked the bite in their tackling across the field. That all changed last Sunday when the Orchardmen set about Tyrone with purpose and bullied the Red Hands into defeat at the Athletic Grounds.

Armagh’s energetic, aggressive display was underpinned by an attacking threat – on the counterattack and via a long-ball game - that produced scores for 10 men.

“After Ballybofey, we went and re-assessed and worked on the basics of the game and when the opportunity came against Tyrone to kick the ball over the bar, more often than not we took our chances,” said Campbell.

“In the modern game if you get that lead, it’s hard to pin back.”

Injuries to Tiernan Kelly, Oisin O’Neill, Ciaran Mackin and Niall Grimley meant Campbell switched from his role as an impact sub to a starter against Tyrone and he carried the fight to the Red Hands with a mix of physicality, pace and cutting edge that earned him the man of the match accolade.

“There are a lot of roles in the game,” he said.

“I’ve been used as the impact player all year. After the Donegal game there was a big change of plan and I’d been playing well, I’ve been playing well all year, so it was good to get into the team from the start.

“We set out our stall. We needed that lead and we got it and that’s always hard to peg back in the modern game given your ability to defend in numbers.”

Donegal know all about defending in numbers of course. The Tir Chonaill men came out on the wrong side of a defensive chess-match against Derry in the Ulster final and will have been stung – as Armagh were after the Ballybofey defeat – by criticism since then.

Declan Bonner and his men will be determined to bounce back while Armagh must be equally determined to push on and find the elusive consistency they need for a prolonged Championship run.

“If we don’t win on Sunday, beating Tyrone is for nothing,” said Campbell.

“There are no easy games but we’ll be ready to go again.”

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