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'I don't want to be romantic about it but this place has stories in its walls' - Armagh enjoy trip to Tipp

Kieran McGeeney’s side have their season around from that defeat to Down.

Armagh players and management celebrate the win over Tipperary.
Armagh players and management celebrate the win over Tipperary.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

A CHANGE OF scenery has helped Armagh.

Since Kieran McGeeney took charge at the start of 2015, their familiar environs in Ulster have brought little cause for cheer.

They’ve lost their three Ulster outings since then and after the defeat to Down in early June, a cloud hung over the county’s football fortunes after six reversals in their previous seven championship ties – including the match with Laois last summer that was subsequently declared void due to a substitution controversy.

But in the space of six weeks Armagh’s season has changed radically. Three qualifier wins on the bounce have propelled them towards Croke Park on Saturday 29 July, when they will face McGeeney’s old charges Kildare.

Armagh have now matched the number of wins they claimed in 2014, their best season in recent times when they reached the All-Ireland quarter-final against Donegal.

The qualifier recovery began against Fermanagh before they progressed further in the county’s maiden championship encounters against Westmeath and Tipperary.

A win in Mullingar was followed up on Saturday afternoon in Thurles, where the chance to step out at Semple Stadium was savoured.

Kieran McGeeney celebrates at the final whistle Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney celebrates at the final whistle of their win over Tipperary. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“This stadium is amazing, we came down (Friday) night and I’m talking as a 30-something year old man who has been emotional, remarked Armagh selector and 2002 All-Ireland winner Paddy McKeever.

“It was something special walking around here, so to come away with a victory from here is something to cherish.

“(We) wouldn’t mind a home draw occasionally. I’d say the county board wouldn’t mind a home draw either!

“But yeah it definitely does (help to have change of scenery). I don’t want to be romantic about it but this place has stories in its walls.

“We knew it was meant to be a bigger pitch but to come in and take in the enormity of it. There’s something different about here.

“The small ball merchants would tell me that it’s the best stadium in the country. I wish I’d played here myself at some stage but these guys got the chance today.”

In a tight and tense encounter, the intervention of Jamie Clarke was decisive with his late haul of 1-1 proving vital.

“Well I suppose the sort of class that Jamie has, he’s always capable of that,” says McKeever.

“He was probably by his own standards indifferent enough.

“But he always keeps showing and he always wants to score, so he came away with 1-1 in what was a five minute cameo.”

Jamie Clarke celebrates scoring a goal Jamie Clarke celebrates the goal he scored against Tipperary. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

McKeever was pleased to witness the character that Armagh exhibited, bouncing back from the early second-half goal they shipped when Michael Quinlivan netted for Tipperary.

“It is born out of similar losses that they’ve had, some of the collective criticism they have received from all quarters.

“They were going to define what their year was about. Again it’s only one step but we have rallied around each other and picked each other up.

“Game by game we are improving but again we are going up another level. There is improvement there but we have a lot of work to do.”

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