Armagh's stubborn streak gives them replay edge
Armagh deserved their draw on Saturday evening as they refused to accept defeat when things weren't going their way and that result will have given them a great boost in confidence.
They probably felt an injustice going into the game after the appeal against their three player suspensions were turned down and they used that to good effect. Another factor was that most people were already talking about another Monaghan versus Donegal final and that can get through to players.
Armagh got their match-ups right and, to be honest, they should have been in front at half-time as they were the better side in my opinion. Monaghan looked tired and leggy and didn't play with the same level of intensity as they had done in the previous round against Tyrone. That happens sometimes as all their energies would have been focused on beating Tyrone and it probably wasn't until the Thursday after that game that they got good work done at training again, while you can't do a big pile in the week leading up to a game.
Armagh, on the other hand, would have been watching from afar and had Monaghan well weighed up and that showed in their approach. Both sides set up very defensively and it was Armagh who looked the sharper when breaking forward. With the game in the melting pot Monaghan looked as though they had turned the screw when they moved three points clear with time running out and they really should have closed the game out.
Instead of doing what had got them that three-point lead, they retreated back into their shell just as they had done against Tyrone and it almost cost them. The mind-set of the Monaghan players seemed to be that they had established a three-point lead and now they were going to defend it and they started playing silly passes and I think that they and indeed the supporters thought that they had the game won.
Credit has to go to Armagh the way that they refused to accept defeat and fair play to young Grugan for taking the responsibility to take that pressure kick at the end. That showed a lot of bottle to do that when there were more experienced players on the field and that will only do his confidence so much good.
The replay should be very interesting especially as Armagh will have their three players back although that will not necessarily make them stronger as the other players on Saturday raised their game to compensate for their loss. Armagh will take a lot from this and it's all to play for next weekend. If anything there will be even greater pressure as the losers will be out in the qualifiers the following Saturday and they will find it very difficult to raise themselves for that.
Both Tyrone and Down bounced back from their defeats in Ulster to record wins in the qualifiers although it is doubtful if either of them would have learned anything. It took Tyrone a while to get going but once the first goal went in you could see the Louth heads drop. Mickey Harte will be just glad to get a win under their belts but there is still work to do if they are to progress further.
Down hammered Leitrim and they will believe that they can get a run in the qualifiers. With Derry out they are in the favourable half of the draw and if they get to Croke Park they will feel that they can beat any side.