Review of the season – Armagh

1 Theatre of Dreams

Armagh made two trips to Jones’ Road this year and it’s the first season since 2006 that the orange and white have gathered in Croke Park on more than one occasion. That was back when the Ulster finals were hosted in HQ and while Armagh certainly want to improve their status on the provincial series, it was huge to get back to Croke Park and to win a game there. That first-round league victory over Dublin meant a lot to Armagh fans as it showed that this team can compete with the best teams at the highest level, and it kicked off a superb National League campaign. Then there was the both thrilling and devastating All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Galway which will be remembered as the game of the year. Armagh supporters will hope there’s a couple more days out in Croker in the near future.

2 The Queens of Ulster

The Armagh ladies are currently the Queens of Ulster as they got their hands on another provincial title, their third on the bounce, with a dramatic victory over old rivals Donegal. The Orchard looked to have lost the game more than once but the grit, determination and undoubted skill within the team eventually got them over the line after extra time. It was a historic moment for the Armagh ladies, and they will once again hope to push on in the new season and give the All-Ireland series a real go. With Shane McCormack now in charge, the team is backboned with so much talent and experience that they’ll certainly be one of the teams to beat once again in 2023 and they’ll look to retain their Ulster title and earn promotion to the topflight.

3 Cross back on top

A two-year wait for a county title may not seem like a lot, but for Crossmaglen it was a famine. It wasn’t as if the Rangers had disappeared off the board completely, but more that they couldn’t seem to get over the line on the biggest day. Stephen Kernan’s side lost out to Maghery (2020) and Clann Eireann (2021) in the previous two county finals, but it was third time lucky this year as they powered past Granemore with 12-points to spare in the end. They failed to leave any real mark on the Ulster Championship, which will be hugely disappointing for the club, but that will be the target next season once it gets underway, under the new management of former All-Ireland winning captain Anthony Cunningham along with Jim McConville.

4 Rian’s monster free

There were many moments throughout the year that will make the highlight reel, including several scores. Rory Grugan’s goal inside the opening ten seconds of Armagh’s qualifier win over Donegal is right up there, but no score could overshadow the wonder-point Rian O’Neill kicked in Croke Park against Galway. That game was already in the ‘classic’ category, but O’Neill’s majestic strike and the drama that followed was such a memorable moment. There was huge pressure on the shoulders of the Crossmaglen superstar and had he missed, Armagh would have crashed out of the All-Ireland series, but O’Neill held his nerve and landed what was probably the score of the championship, rivalled only by Sean O’Shea’s similarly sublime strike against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final.

5 So close for the camogs

For the third year in a row, the Armagh Camogie team reached the All-Ireland Junior final but like last year, ended up on the losing side. In 2020, the Orchard claimed All-Ireland glory but due to the Covid restrictions, they didn’t earn promotion and remained in that grade. Last year they made it to the biggest day but were beaten by Wexford, the side that also beat them in the 2021 league final. In 2022, Armagh were the favourites as they headed to Croke Park for an All-Ulster, All-Ireland final with Antrim. Four goals from Dervla Cosgrove halted any hopes of another All-Ireland crown for Armagh and the girls will hope to have another big say in the upcoming year, under the new management of Sean Hughes.

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