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Armagh crash out of championship with defeat to Galway

Armagh 0-12 Galway 1-12

Armagh crashed out of the All-Ireland championship following a three-point defeat to Galway at the Athletic Grounds on Sunday afternoon.

The damage was done in seven second-half minutes when Galway bagged a goal and two points to add to a two point half-time advantage.

Kieran McGeeney made a raft of changes following that siege but time was not on his side as Galway played down the clock to advance through to the third round of the qualifiers.

Armagh will be bitterly disappointed with their championship campaign, especially considering their run to the All-Ireland quarterfinal last year.

A muted exit to Donegal in the first round of the Ulster championship was followed by an uninspiring victory over Wicklow in the qualifiers a fortnight ago before today’s surrender.

McGeeney, in his full full season in charge, will now go back to the drawing board in a bid to rectify the problems which have plagued Armagh’s season from as early as the McKenna Cup.

Galway raced out of the blocks with Paul Conroy opening the scoring for the visitors with a free in the first minute of the game, then doubling the lead with another dead-ball score 90 seconds later.

Ethan Rafferty registered Armagh’s first point of the game before Grange clubmate Miceal McKenna brought the sides level with just over five minutes on the clock.

The game settled a bit after a frantic opening six minutes and it was Crossmaglen’s James Morgan – all the way from corner back – who added a third, following excellent fielding from Caolan Rafferty.

Armagh’s lead, however, was short lived as Conroy added his third free of the afternoon; coming moments after Mathew McNeice made a great save to deny Galway an opening goal.

Liam Silke gave Galway the lead once more before Jamie Clarke opened his account with a brilliant effort on his left on 19 minutes.

Peadar Óg Ó Gríofa and Damien Comer gave the Tribesmen a two point cushion with two scores in as many minutes before Andrew Murnin capitalised on a goalkeeper mistake to reduce the deficit once more.

The sides were soon level when Ethan Rafferty kicked his second from a free after Clarke was fouled off the ball.

But once again, Galway tagged on two more scores; the first from Comer before Gary Sice landed a massive effort with three minutes of the first half remaining.

McKenna pulled one back as the break approached but Conroy had the final say of the half with another free to leave the scores 0-9 v 0-7 in favour of the 2008 Connaught champions.

Galway started the brighter after the interval with Sice extending the lead to three points following the concession of a very soft free for the Orchardmen.

Ethan Rafferty cancelled that out with a free of his own two minutes later but the game really swung in Galway’s favour on 42 minutes when a Conroy free feel short, with Comer quickest to react with an improvised fist past McNeice in the Armagh goal.

Danny Cummins and Sice again tagged on a further two points to put seven between the sides and it was at this point that McGeeney started to ring the changes. Declan McKenna, Tony Kernan and Mark Shields were all introduced and it was the latter who made a telling contribution; the Whitecross man scoring within moments of being on the pitch.

Aidan Forker pulled another back for the hosts before a huge call from the referee denied Jamie Clarke a penalty, when it looked like he was hauled down in the box.

However, the referee did award a free when Clarke was fouled seven minutes later and Forker added to his earlier score to reduce arrears to four points.

Sixty seconds later and Kernan had got his first of the day after coming off the bench – McGeeney’s changes beginning to pay dividends, however, with time running out, Galway started to play keepball.

Armagh needed a goal but unfortunately for them it didn’t come as they bowed out of the championship for another year. Galway go into Monday’s draw.

Armagh: McNeice, Mallon, Vernon, Morgan, Murray, Donaghy, Connell, Findon, E Rafferty, Campbell, A Forker, C Rafferty, M McKenna, Murnin, Clarke.

Att: 9,367

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