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Armagh's Orchard County is back in bloom thanks to Jamie Clarke

Armagh 1-17 Kildare 0-17

By John Campbell

When Armagh's ambitions of reaching Division Two of the Allianz League earlier this year were ruthlessly shredded, it was thought that their championship campaign would carry all the hallmarks of a similar pointless exercise.

But the passage of time has delivered levels of composure, conviction and leadership that have dramatically hoisted Kieran McGeeney's side up among the elite and spawned the hope that further peaks can now be scaled.

Fermanagh, Westmeath, Tipperary and Kildare may not be among football's aristocracy but they have formed significant stepping stones in the revival of a county that has spent rather too much time on its knees in recent years.

In offering proof that they have dramatically upgraded from their lowly status, Armagh executed manager McGeeney's sweatshop game-plan to perfection.

As he inhaled the aroma of optimism, buoyancy and indeed relief that engulfed Armagh's huge army of supporters, man of the match Jamie Clarke candidly put the result in context while clearly relishing the mission against Tyrone next Saturday.

"In the league we took our eye off the ball in several games. We built the game against Down in the championship up so much and wanted to put in a big performance. But that didn't happen," he declared.

"Afterwards we had a look at ourselves individually as players. We asked ourselves - did we put in the effort that was required? The answer was no.

"We made a promise that we wouldn't let ourselves down again. It was important that we turned things around. Now we have a tough game coming up against Tyrone on Saturday and we're really looking forward to this challenge."

Clarke's inventive brilliance and exquisite finishing, the perceptive probing of skipper Rory Grugan, Gavin McParland's flashes of inspiration and the towering influence of Brendan Donaghy and James Morgan at the heart of the defence proved vital patterns in Armagh's overall tapestry.

Andrew Murnin's goal which transported Armagh into a 1-7 to 0-7 lead just after the halfway stage in the first half was to prove the score which separated the sides again when it mattered most - at the final whistle.

Sandwiched in between, Clarke had weaved his magic to stunning effect in compiling four points, Grugan had kept Kildare's defence in guesswork mode while Niall Grimley and Stephen Sheridan worked tirelessly.

Nine Kildare players in all scored, skipper Kevin Feeley strove to keep the fire lit, Paddy Brophy and Fergal Conway were thorns in the side of the winners' defence on occasions and the team's zip and zest were in evidence for spells.

But in the end Armagh's sheer cussedness, their new-found self-belief and an ability to minimise errors in a pulsating final quarter helped to carry them over the line.

It's onwards and upwards but with a lot of heavy lifting still to be done.

Armagh: B Hughes; J Morgan, C Vernon, P Hughes; M Shields, B Donaghy 0-1, A Forker 0-1; S Sheridan, N Grimley 0-3 (2f); A McKay, S Campbell 0-1, R Grugan 0-1; J Clarke 0-4, A Murnin 1-1, G McParland 0-3. Subs: J McElroy 0-1 for McKay (36), C O'Hanlon for Forker (44), E Rafferty 0-1 for Murnin (47), O O'Neill for Campbell (48), A Duffy for Grugan (63). Yellow cards: Forker (17), Rafferty (50).

Kildare: M Donnellan 0-1 (f); M O'Grady, D Hyland, O Lyons; P Kelly, J Byrne, K Cribbin 0-2; K Feely 0-4 (4f), P Cribbin; F Conway 0-2, N Kelly 0-2, D Slattery 0-1; P Brophy 0-3, D Flynn 0-1, B McCormack 0-1. Subs: C McNally for McCormack (44), F Dowling for Slattery (50), M Hyland for P Kelly (56), C O'Donoghue for K Cribbin (BC 60), E O'Callaghan for N Kelly (64), T Moolick for Flynn (67). Yellow card: Lyons (55)

Referee: Derek O'Mahoney (Tipperary)

RESULTS AT A GLANCE

All-Ireland Football Championship Quarter-Finals

Kerry 1-18  Galway 0-13

Mayo 1-12  Roscommon 2-9

All-Ireland Football Qualifiers Round 4B

Monaghan 1-24 Down 1-16

Armagh 1-17 Kildare 0-17

All-Ireland Ladies Senior Football Championship Qualifiers

Armagh 3-16 Westmeath 4-11

Waterford 1-15 Cavan 1-13

All-Ireland Ladies Junior Football Championship Group B Rd 1

Fermanagh 2-14 Derry 1-2

All-Ireland Premier Junior

Camogie Championship

Armagh 3-10 Roscommon 0-7

All Ireland U16 B Camogie

Championship Group 1

Antrim 5-18 Derry 1-13

Armagh 8-21 Tyrone 1-1

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