Tribe seeks treble

July 6, 2015

All-Ireland SFC Round 2 Qualifier: Armagh v Galway

Galway will travel to the Athletic Grounds seeking their third qualifier win on the trot over the Orchard County. At Croke Park in 2001 the men from the West triumphed 0-13 to 0-12 and more recently at Pearse Stadium in 2013 were successful 1-11 to 0-9. Current Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney and his Galway counterpart Kevin Walshe both played in that 2001 game whilst several of the current panels are survivors of the 2013 meeting between the teams.

Galway have not had an outing since their 1-15 to 2-8 defeat by Mayo whereas Armagh had a qualifier win over Wicklow 2-17 to 2-7 following their dismal Ulster championship showing against Donegal in a 2-11 to 0-8 defeat. This will be Armagh’s third 2015 championship outing at the Athletic Grounds. Looking back to the Salthill meeting a couple of years ago the thing that stuck in the minds of a lot of Armagh supporters was the strenuous warm –up done by their team in sweltering heat before throw-in. The poser for the rival managers on Saturday is if they will have a full squad of players to select from.

Armagh captain Ciaran McKeever was a late withdrawal against Wicklow with midfielder Aaron Findon also an absentee. Galway played Mayo without the very influential Shane Walsh and if he has recovered from a hand injury sustained in a car accident it will be a huge boost to the Tribesmen. Galway have a mixture of youth and experience through Walsh, Paul Conroy, Gary Sice and Finian Hanley to aid their successful All-Ireland U-21 winning teams of 2011 and 2013.

Wicklow gave Armagh’s midfield pairing of Caolan and Ethan Rafferty plenty to contemplate the last day and Galway will be keen to get their influential pairing of Fiontán Ó Currain and Conroy on the ball regularly. Conroy is a very accomplished player whose impact, were it to materialize, could be game-defining. This midfield contest will be fascinating and a possible real game changer.

Armagh, through injury, have swapped and changed defensively over the course of their last two outings but will need to have their homework done to curb the likes of Danny Cummins and Damien Comer who possess clever movement and accurate finishing that will trouble any defence.

Armagh have been struggling to find any rhythm or style to their play and come up against a Galway team that likes to play open expansive football using plenty of width, with speed and accurate passing a feature of their play. Galway, like Armagh reached last year’s All-Ireland quarter-finals where they lost out to Kerry 1-20 to 2-10.

Armagh will know that they will have to be firing on all cylinders if they are to get over this tough hurdle. Galway gave Mayo a run for their money, the sides were level at the short whistle 1-5 to 0-8 with Gary Sice scoring a stunning Galway goal but in the second half a disastrous own-goal undid all their good work allowing Mayo a comfortable lead but Galway grabbed a second goal when Danny Cummins punched to the net to reduce the deficit to 2 points but Mayo stood firm to claim the spoils.

Armagh have their own firepower to disturb a Galway defence with the team ability to get quality ball to Jamie Clarke key. Clarke will get close attention from Galway but there is no reason that others cannot benefit by exploiting the space that left as they concentrate their efforts on the Crossmaglen ace. Full-forward Andy Murnin is improving with every outing and will provide a handful for Galway full-back Finian Hanley and how these two fare could be a key ingredient of the game. Armagh are capable of a lot better than what we have seen to date and with, hopefully, a fully fit squad to choose from they will sparkle in the form we know they can produce.

The Wicklow win will inspire and restore confidence in Armagh and the Galway style of play will suit the hosts who in the past have had more success at being the underdog rather than the favourite. Galway are a step up above what Armagh (bar Donegal) have come up against all year but it is not an unsurmountable step and no reason for the home support not to be looking forward to the draw for the round three of the qualifiers.