All Ireland SFC Round 4B Qualifier
Armagh’s impressive march through the qualifiers was completed with Kildare suffering the same fate as Fermanagh, Westmeath and last year’s All Ireland semi-finalists Tipperary.
Andrew Murnin’s 31st minute goal ultimately proved decisive as Armagh advanced to the quarter-finals, having been knocked out of Ulster by a point by Down.
No one would fancy facing Kevin McGeeney’s side in the quarter-finals on this form, as the 2002 All-Ireland champions are full of confidence and battle hardened after four qualifying matches.
Since losing to Down, the Orchardmen have embarked on an extraordinary run which has taken them to the last eight for the first time since 2014, with Saturday’s victory over Kildare arguably their most impressive.
“We knew it was going to be another big step up from the Tipperary game,” said Paddy McKeever, who is part of McGeeney’s backroom team.
“They put up a pretty impressive score against Dublin, we were watching it as well. They probably missed a good 2-4 so we knew we would have to score highly.
“Kildare play an attacking brand of football which allowed us to play, we just won out in the end.”
Despite going down to Dublin by nine points in the Leinster final, the Lilywhites were firm favourites to progress to the last eight after racking up an impressive 1-17 against the reigning All Ireland champions.
But Armagh, playing at Croke Park for the first time since their one-point quarter-final defeat at the hands of Donegal in 2014, were clearly up for the contest, fuelled by their defeat to Down and having been denied promotion from Division 2 by Tipp.
Armagh led 0-6 to 0-3 after 18 minutes only for Kildare to respond with four-in-a-row to edge ahead in a see-saw tussle.
The Orchardmen struck a crucial blow through Murnin’s goal which saw them take a 1-8 to 0-8 lead into the break. Rory Grugan setting up Murnin in front of Hill 16 to raise the green flag.
Jamie Clarke put Armagh four clear, at 1-9 to 0-8, against the Division 2 league finalists, but Kildare responded to level it up three times between the 46th and 58th minutes.
It was Armagh who had the stronger finish, however, as they outscored Kildare by three points in the final 10 minutes to secure a famous win and march on to the quarter-finals.
“I think they hit the post two if not three times and they had some poor wides. We were very clinical in the first half so we were lucky enough from that aspect,” added McKeever.
“Obviously the goal made a big difference, a lot of it had to do with the pressure they were taking their shots under because a lot of our defenders were pressing them pretty strongly, maybe that put them off a fraction.”
Kildare manager Cian O’Neill, said: “We just couldn’t get that one point above, we got back to level.
“Every time we missed a shot it was almost like they came down to get a score so psychologically it was a blow. We didn’t execute right throughout the game. That is what cost us the game.”
“I thought they executed better than us,”
Scorers for Armagh: Andrew Murnin 1-1, Jamie Clarke 0-4, Gavin McParland 0-3, Rory Grugan 0-2 (1f), Niall Grimley 0-2 (2fs), Stefan Campbell 0-1, Aidan Forker 0-1, Joe McElroy 0-1, Brendan Donaghy 0-1, Ethan Rafferty 0-1.
Scorers for Kildare: Kevin Feely 0-5 (5fs), Paddy Brophy 0-3, Niall Kelly 0-2, Keith Cribbin 0-2, Fergal Conway 0-2, Daniel Flynn 0-1, Mark Donnellan 0-1 (1f), Ben McCormack 0-1.
ARMAGH: Blaine Hughes; Charlie Vernon, James Morgan, Paul Hughes; Brendan Donaghy, Mark Shields, Aidan Forker; Stephen Sheridan, Niall Grimley; Aaron McKay, Stefan Campbell, Rory Grugan; Jamie Clarke, Andrew Murnin, Gavin McParland.
Subs: Joe McElroy for McKay (38), Ciaran O’Hanlon for Forker (45), Ethan Rafferty for Murnin (48), Oisin O’Neill for Campbell (48), Anthony Duffy for Grugan (64).
KILDARE: Mark Donnellan; Peter Kelly, David Hyland, Ollie Lyons; Keith Cribbin, Johnny Byrne, Mick O’Grady; Kevin Feely, Paul Cribbin; Fergal Conway, Paddy Brophy, David Slattery; Daniel Flynn, Niall Kelly, Ben McCormack.
Subs: Cathal McNally for McCormack (45), Fionn Dowling for Slattery (50), Mark Hyland for Kelly (57), Cian O’Donoghue for K Cribbin (59), Eamonn Callaghan for N Kelly (64), Tommy Moolick for Flynn (67).