McGeeney delighted to have reached last four

By Shaun Casey

THE last time Armagh reached the last four in the race for Sam Maguire, Kieran McGeeney was still a player, hunting a second All-Ireland medal. He’s now the manager of the team that has ended the county’s 19-year wait for an All-Ireland semi-final appearance.

They did so with a below par performance in Croke Park against Roscommon, but goals either side of the half-time break from Clann Éireann duo Barry McCambridge and Conor Turbitt helped them over the line.

The Orchard County will now play Kerry with a place in the 2024 All-Ireland final up for grabs and a first championship meeting between the two since 2006, when a certain Kieran Donaghy starred for the Kingdom as they overturned Armagh.

“It’s been a good while. Our squad (in the noughties) didn’t get to too many either so it’s a great achievement for the players,” said McGeeney after Armagh’s six-point win over the Rossies.

“Now it’s just about putting their heads down and trying to make the most of it. Everybody’s delighted, we weren’t at our very best, we were very sloppy throughout the game.

“But I suppose it’s a good sign for the players that they’ve been moving in the right direction, and this year even though we’re not playing at our best, we’ve got to the semi-final.

“I suppose there’s a bit of consistency in it for us the last three years. (We got to) two Ulster finals and pushed on to three quarter-finals and eventually got through.”

McGeeney added: “With both our previous quarter-finals (2022 and 2023), even though you can’t say you won them, we played as good as the team we were playing against right up until the end of extra-time and just lost on penalties.

“To reach the quarters three years in a row is good, and to finally get over the line is even better. And again, without not playing our best, and I think there’s much more in them.”

In the final quarter and with the game still up for grabs, Armagh were without Rian O’Neill, Rory Grugan and Aidan Forker, who had all been replaced, and still got over the line without three of their most valuable leaders.

McGeeney paid tribute to the players that got the job done in the final 15 minutes, including Stefan Campbell and Oisin Conaty, along with centre half-back Tiernan Kelly.

“Conaty was excellent throughout the game, he scored four points from play in the second half and ‘Soupy’ (Campbell) was brilliant, but I thought ‘TK’ (Kelly) put in a super performance as well. Lurgan and Portadown definitely led the way for us.”

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