Armagh deliver on emotional day for McGeeney

McGeeney and Conaty at full-time
Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney is embraced by Oisin Conaty at full-time [Inpho]

The Armagh players delivered for Kieran McGeeney as they broke their All-Ireland quarter-final hoodoo on an emotional day for their manager at Croke Park.

McGeeney's uncle, Peter Kelly, passed away on the eve of the county's win over Roscommon on Saturday afternoon, with a minute's silence observed prior to throw-in.

Speaking to reporters after Armagh reached the last four for the first time in 19 years, McGeeney said emotions were still "a bit raw".

"Mum and dad didn’t tell me until this morning,” said an emotional McGeeney.

“It was tragic circumstances over it. Peter was a good man, his son would be one of my best mates. This morning was a bit rough, to be honest.

“We were supposed to have a surprise party for his sister tonight. Peter was a great man, a great character. He would have been roaring and shouting at the TV today I'm sure.

McGeeney added: "We’d great support from all the Kelly household. We're a close family and it's a tough day."

McGeeney, who captained Armagh to their only All-Ireland triumph in 2022, will now lead his players into the semi-final for the first time - and at the 10th time of asking.

However, the Mullaghbawn man was not overly enamoured with his side's display having played against a 14-man team for more than half of the game following Ruaidhri Fallon's first-half dismissal.

“It was probably our worst performance in Croke Park but I suppose from the fellas’ point of view it probably shows how far they’ve come on and the way they can play,” said McGeeney, who has kept belief in his side even after a series of gut-wrenching penalty shootout defeats.

“We’ve played much better, our skills were poor. Going forward today we missed a lot of chances. With the extra man [Roscommon’s Ruaidhr Fallon was sent off just before the break] we could have made it a lot easier.

“In saying that, Barry McCambridge, TJ [Tiernan] Kelly, Oisin Conaty were among a lot good performances.

“I’m delighted for the fellas, it's a bit of a monkey off their back and hopefully they’ll go out the next day and really express themselves.”

'There are huge expectations in Armagh'

With no repeat pairings in the semi-finals, Armagh cannot face Galway - who stunned Dublin later on Saturday - Donegal or Derry.

But with the Galway result having blown the championship wide open, McGeeney and his players will sense an opportunity to reach the All-Ireland final for the first time since 2003.

When asked if it feels like a statement from Armagh, McGeeney said: "We know, no matter who we play, we'll not be favourites.

"There are huge expectations in Armagh. That can be good and bad. We might think above our station at times but this is a good team, they've shown that over the past number of years.

"I'm not saying it's the best team out there at the moment but it's definitely a good team. We push them to go forward as often as possible, no matter what people out there might think, but it's the way football is played now - it's hard to break teams down."