Armagh wilted in the Salthill heat last Saturday and bowed out of the All Ireland qualifiers as their opponents Galway set up a last twelve clash with Cork at Croke Park this weekend.
Huge wins over Wicklow and Leitrim had led to the fans being optimistic but Paul Grimley’s side were out scored and out battled by the Tribesmen who lead from start to finish as the temperatures pitchside reached almost 30 degrees.
The heat has also been on Grimley since his charges were dumped out of the Provincial series by Cavan, the Armagh man had announced the same line out for the third concecutive game but on this occasion the free flowing football was missing as was the scoring threat from Jamie Clarke, it was Lurgan man Stefan Campbell who made the headlines shooting three great points from play having been introduced before the break for Eugene McVerry who had been the hat-trick hero against Leitrim.
The much vaunted midfield pairing of James Lavery and Steven Harold struggled against Galway’s mobile pairing of Tom Flynn and Paul Conway who dominated. Once again against a decent team Armagh’s forward line couldn’t produce the goods. The reliance on Clarke should not be over emphasised, the Rangers man didn’t register in the defeat against Roscommon last season and in the Cavan game, his contribution on Saturday when double marked failed to raise a white flag and the fortunes of Armagh suffered as a result.
As expected Galway manager Alan Mulholland shelved his sides normal all out attacking game, his team were a lot more defensive minded, Johnny Dunne doubled as a sweeper and policed Jamie Clarke, and the home sides defenders smothered the Armagh attack who never looked capable of carrying the favourites tag to victory. Armagh had thumped Galway in their final league game of the season at the Athletic Grounds but the Westerners were on top this time.
On a day when the umpires broke with tradition and swapped their white coats for white shirts it was the home side who were first out of the blocks, the Tribesmen through Michael Martin, Sean Armstrong and Michael Mehan raced to a three points to nil lead as Armagh struggled with the pace of the game.
Tony Kernan, Caolin Rafferty and Ciaran McKeever with scores brought Armagh back into contention, but when Danny Cummins rose to knock home a long delivery from Paul Conway on 24 minutes a shock looked on the cards. Now behind on a scoreline of 1-06 to 0-03 the Ulstermen looked nervous.
Points before the break from Aaron Kernan and Stefan Campbell cushioned the visitors to a four points deficit and on the restart Ethan Rafferty brought just two between with a well taken point.
In an impressive cameo Clan Na Gael’s Stefan Campbell struck two further points but the final quarter belonged to Galway.
Points from Mehan, Martin and Gary Sice were responded to by Orchard skipper Ciaran Mckeever but the visitors were to rue their nine points registered from a total of 25 chances. Armagh fans who swelled the crowd of 5,626 would now realise that the County has slumped further since the glory days when Ulster titles were taken for granted, Paul Grimley will have over six months to ponder what the immediate future of this Armagh team holds. The Board should with confidence back the big Pearse Ogs man who has given it his best shot with a group of players who are being judged with the heroics of a one off great side who ruled Ulster for a sustained period.