Galway and Armagh will meet for the fourth time in championship history at Croke Park on Sunday in the All-Ireland quarter-final. It's the Connacht side who hold the aces in this particular rivalry, taking advantage of traffic jams and temperature jumps to eke out a 3-0 advantage.
Armagh are late to the party
With Galway and Armagh avoiding each other in the only two pre-qualifier years when they both won provincial titles – 1982 and 2000 – it took until 2001 and the first season of the backdoor for the counties to cross paths in the championship.
It would be a seismic day for both counties, and Galway’s 0-13 to 0-12 win at Croke Park would have a profound impact on both.
For the Tribesmen, the win would be the catalyst for their ninth – and to date last – All-Ireland triumph.
In 2000, wins over New York, Sligo, Leitrim and Kildare saw them reach an All-Ireland final against a Kerry side who had needed two games and a bout of extra-time to get the better of Armagh. The final also needed a second outing with the Kingdom prevailing.
The hangover from that loss looked obvious in Connacht the next season. After a facile win over Leitrim, Galway were heavy favourites against Roscommon in Tuam but their rivals earned their first championship win in the fixture in 11 years thanks to goals from Nigel Dineen and Frankie Dolan.
A qualifier win over Wicklow got them back to winning ways before they were paired against Armagh with one big name set for an early exit.
With 17 minutes remaining, an out-of-sorts Armagh trailed by seven points, but then they found the spirit that was missing all day and raised seven white flags in a row.
In the 73rd minute and with the whistle in Brian White’s mouth, they went on one last attack to try win the game but Justin McNulty’s attempted pass into the full-forward line was blocked down by Michael Donnellan and the ball was worked to Paul Clancy who clipped over a dramatic winner.
Armagh’s lethargy can be explained somewhat by the logistical pre-match nightmare when the Garda escort failed to show up to take their team bus to the game from a training pitch a few miles away. With bottleneck traffic in the streets around Croke Park, officials were forced to get off the bus to try and clear people out of the way.
Their cause wasn’t helped by having to get ready in a cramped changing room at the Canal End due to the development of Croke Park and the fact it was a double-header with Sligo meeting Kildare in the second game. The Orchard players were out of sync and it ultimately cost them.
The loss meant the end of the road for their managers, Brian McAlinden and Brian Canavan, and in stepped Joe Kernan and the rest, as they say, is history.
Their 2002 All-Ireland triumph saw them take the trophy from Galway’s hands with the Tribe following that Armagh win with victories over Cork, Roscommon, Derry and Meath to conquer Ireland in 2001. They haven’t managed it since.
Sizzling in Salthill
Salthill was sizzling in July 2013. The umpires discarded their white jackets, the crowd took cover in the shade any way they could and Galway turned up the heat further by defying the odds and earning a 1-11 to 0-09 win at Pearse Stadium.
Alan Mulholland’s men being underdogs on their own turf against Armagh may have seemed odd, but the form-lines heading into the game painted two very different pictures.
After a disappointing Ulster loss to Cavan, Paul Grimley’s side had bounced back in emphatic fashion by beating Wicklow by 25 points and Leitrim by 27 – they hit eight goals in the latter of those.
Meanwhile, some Galway fans were claiming it was the worst side they’d seen in all their time following the county.
Their Division 2 campaign had been underwhelming with the side conceding 0-21 to Armagh in round seven, and when Mayo hit them for 4-16 in Connacht it looked like a case of getting the season over and done with.
Their first two qualifier games did little to change such opinions. Michael Farragher’s goal proved crucial in a four-point home win over Tipperary and then Waterford nearly produced a massive shock at Pearse Stadium.
Niall Carew’s men were three points ahead with 15 minutes to go and had a massive wind behind them, but Michael Meehan found the net late on to earn a one-point win for the hosts, saving them from one of their most embarrassing defeats ever.
No surprise then after all that Armagh were tipped to make it through to the next round.
The game didn’t pan out as expected though as Galway led from starting gun to the finish tape with Danny Cummins’ second-quarter goal giving them the required cushion. Donal O’Neill wrapped up Jamie Clarke, a youthful Paul Conroy excelled in the heat and the 5,000-plus crowd – dominated by orange rather than maroon – were denied any sort of frantic finale.
Galway’s season would end in round four the following week as they lost out to Cork by a point – a game memorable for Michael Meehan’s incredible goal from a free off the ground.
Old rivals meet again
Kevin Walsh and Kieran McGeeney had shared the pitch when Galway and Armagh met for the first time in the championship in 2001, and in 2015 they were managing their counties for their round two qualifier at the Athletic Grounds.
The Orchard County were somewhat deflated heading into the game. They had lifted the Division 3 title with a final win over Fermanagh a few months earlier and having pushed Donegal all the way in the 2014 All-Ireland quarter-final, a hum of excitement enveloped the Athletic Grounds when the Tír Chonaill County visited for an Ulster quarter-final clash.
The attendance was clocked at 18,186, but plenty of those started to stream towards the exit after just 45 minutes as Martin O’Reilly netted to put Donegal 2-09 to 0-03 ahead. A 10-point qualifier win over Wicklow was deceptive too as the Garden County missed a series of good chances when the game was in the balance and Jamie Clarke punished them with two late goals.
Galway had lost a tight and bad-tempered Connacht semi-final to Mayo, and a trip to Armagh looked like one of the harder draws on paper.
Armagh, in the defensive era of the McGeeney reign, flooded bodies back in the opening quarter but Galway were still the better side in the first half and led 0-09 to 0-07 at the interval.
Much like in 2013, once they hit the net Armagh’s goose was cooked. Damien Comer fisted home early in the second half when a free dropped short, a replay of 2013 when Cummins fisted home a free that had also dropped short.
Armagh felt that they should have had a penalty late on when Jamie Clarke was taken down, but it wasn't given and Walsh’s side left with a 1-12 to 0-12 win. Like the Orchard County in Ulster, they’d feel the full force of Donegal in round four.
Follow the All-Ireland Football Championship quarter-finals on Saturday, Derry v Clare (3.45pm) and Dublin v Cork (6pm), via our live blog on rte.ie/sport or on the RTÉ News app. Listen to live radio commentary on RTÉ Radio 1
Follow the All-Ireland Football Championship quarter-finals on Sunday, Galway v Armagh (1.45pm) and Kerry v Mayo (4pm), via our live blog on rte.ie/sport or on the RTÉ News app. Watch live coverage on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player commencing at 1.15pm with live radio commentary on RTÉ Radio 1
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