By Shaun Casey
KIERAN McGeeney paid tribute to Armagh’s older guard for getting the Orchard County to the last eight of the All-Ireland series with a one-point win over Galway.
In a pulsating, nip and tuck encounter with the Tribesmen, it was McGeeney’s side who edged ahead at the end of the game and held their nerve to sneak over the line by the minimum of margins.
The Connacht champions had a chance to level late on it with the final kick of the day, and to earn a share of the spoils, but Shane Walsh’s effort from a tight angle fell short of the mark.
Andrew Murnin’s fantastic run ended in a foul and Rory Grugan stepped up to slot the ball between the posts and nudge Armagh ahead.
Aidan Forker was another who really stood up to be counted when it mattered most and those three have given their all to the Armagh cause during McGeeney’s tenure.
“Murnin’s play at the end to cut that out and take the ball up and get us a free and then for Rory to score it, I was delighted for him,” said the 2002 All-Ireland winning captain.
“Those things aren’t easy as we saw with Shane Walsh. They’re hard, I know it looks easy, but pressure is a funny thing, so I was really delighted for him and Andrew and Aidan.
“But there was a lot of good things out there. (Ciaran) Higgins got his first start in a long time and was excellent for us.
“Ethan (Rafferty) saves a penalty despite people saying that he can’t, there were a lot of good things. Ben (Crealey) gave us a fantastic second half as well so there’s a lot to be positive about.
“We’ll hopefully see Morgy (James Morgan) and Rian (O’Neill) back in the fold now, Oisin (O’Neill) is back kicking football as well, TK (Tiernan Kelly) is back pushing hard so hopefully everybody is going to be pushing over the next 14 days and give us a real boost.”
Armagh’s next outing will be in the All-Ireland quarter-final and although they don’t know their opponents just yet, McGeeney is expecting another tough challenge.
“Even within this round robin series, you’re playing the best of the best. Nothing comes easy as we’ve seen and you’re going to get a brilliant team coming through so it’s going to be nip and tuck again.
“Nobody can say that we’ll hope for this team or hope for that team, every team that you’re going to draw is going to be quality.
“But that’s why you play, the big days and the big teams so it gives something for everybody to look forward to over the next two weeks.
“We’ll hopefully get a great buzz in the county, get the flags out again and a couple of sunny days rather than the thunder and lightning and really get behind the team.”