Feature: No quarter given

IT’S crunch time in the championship this weekend and Niall Gartland looks back at some of the most memorable All-Ireland quarter-finals involving Ulster sides

2002 Armagh 2-9 Sligo 0-15

2002 is basically the year of all years from an Armagh perspective, but it’s fair to say they had a few close shaves (including in the final itself) en route to winning the Sam Maguire for the first time in their history. Indeed, they were almost caught out in the All-Ireland quarter-final against a strong Sligo team. With twelve minutes left and five points down, it looked like Sligo were on the cusp of collapsing entirely, but they produced a stirring comeback to send the game to a replay. The replay was another exciting encounter with Armagh holding their nerve to run out 1-16 to 0-17 victors with Paul McGrane and Steven McDonnell immense in midfield and attack respectively.

2004 Fermanagh 0-12 Armagh 0-11

WHERE does this one rank in the pantheon of gaelic footballing upsets? It has to be up there anyway as Fermanagh claimed a shock victory over heavy hitters Armagh at Croke Park. Armagh had been joint 5/2 favourites for the All-Ireland final the week of the match, but they were undone by a gutsy and talented Fermanagh side who overcame a nervy start to bring themselves right back into the game. The second-half was a real roller-coaster to say the least. Try as they might, Armagh, who had Enda McNulty red carded early on, couldn’t impose themselves on the underdogs, and Tom Brewster’s winning point in injury time is the stuff of legend.

2005 Tyrone 1-14 Dublin 1-14

A GAME for the ages in front of a full house at Croke Park. Tyrone got off to a promising start with the first two points of the game coming from Stephen O’Neill and Sean Cavanagh, but Dublin found their rhythm and led by 1-8 to 0-5 at the break. Tyrone’s season was on the line and they came out fighting in the second-half and drew level when Owen Mulligan scored one of the most famous goals of all time. Classic points from O’Neill and Dooher nudged Tyrone into the lead but Dublin scored the final two points of the day to set up a replay. It was another memorable game with Mulligan tormenting the Dubs defence from start to finish, scoring 1-8 as the Red Hands booked a semi-final clash with Armagh.

2006 Armagh 1-13 Kerry 3-15

A BLISTERING second-half display, where Kerry outscored their opponents by 2-10 to 0-6, saw them claim a cathartic victory against an Armagh side that had denied them in the 2002 All-Ireland final. Joe Kernan’s side were the better side in the first-half – Steven McDonnell’s goal was quintessential Armagh of that era– but Kerry were only two points in arrears and took the game by the scruff of the neck after the break with a physical (at times overly physical) and dynamic performance. Kieran Donaghy’s goal was crucial in his breakout year on the team, and a late goal from Darran O’Sullivan put a bit of gloss on the final scoreline.

2008 Tyrone 3-14 Dublin 1-8

ONE of the iconic days in Tyrone GAA history. Written off by all and sundry in the lead up to the match having stuttered through the qualifiers, Tyrone played out of their skins in slippy conditions to claim a seismic victory over the Dubs. First-half goals from Joe McMahon and Sean Cavanagh opened up a comfortable first-half lead and they kept their foot on the pedal after the break with Davy Harte getting their third goal of the afternoon. It was total football at its best and 3-13 of their overall tally of 3-14 came from play. We all know how the season ended up – two games later they were All-Ireland champions for the third time in six years.

2010 Down 1-16 Kerry 1-10

DOWN were huge underdogs heading into the 2010 All-Ireland quarter-final against the reigning All-Ireland champions, but they defied the odds with a seriously impressive display and the final scoreline was reflective of their supremacy on the day (indeed it would have been worse from a Kerry perspective only for a late penalty). Down had the ball in the back of the net after two minutes via Mark Poland and that set the tone for a high-tempo display from James McCartan’s side. There was a historic element to their win as well – in five championship meetings Kerry have never been able to beat Down (in 1960, 1961, 1968, 1991 and 2010), something Down are justifiably proud of.

2011 Donegal 1-12 Kildare 0-14

BEST remembered for a miraculous winning point deep into extra-time by Kevin Cassidy, this was a nail-biting, claustrophobic but ultimately exhilarating contest between two fully committed teams. Donegal had made big strides in the first year of the Jimmy McGuinness project but it looked like this was a bridge too far heading into the final ten minutes as they trailed by three points. They finished strongly to set up extra-time, and you really couldn’t look away for a second as both sides poured their heart and soul into trying to claim victory. It was Donegal who ultimately prevailed thanks to the aforementioned wonderpoint from our very own Gaelic Life columnist Kevin Cassidy.

2022 Galway 2-21 Armagh 3-18 

THIS game was so eventful that it has its own Wikipedia page! Where even to start, well we’ll cut to the case– it had been a valiant effort but Armagh were six points and one man down after Greg McCabe was dismissed for a red card. But David Coldrick’s decision to play eight minutes of injury time gave Armagh a lifelife and they took full advantage with two goals before a remarkable Rian O’Neill equaliser from a long-range free to send the game to extra-time. Then there was a bit of a fracas to set pulses racing further, as you’ll no doubt remember. The game ended up going to penalties (a slice of history as it was the first knock-out game in the All-Ireland SFC to do so) and Galway did the business to advance to the semi-finals.

A classic, really.

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