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Watch: St Ronan's All Ireland win can help put Armagh GAA back on the map where we belong, says Kelly

By Gareth Hanna

County Armagh's reign as All Ireland champions seems so very long ago.

It's 16 years since Kieran McGeeney lofted Sam above his head in the Hogan Stand and it's fair to say the Division Three trophy picked up over a week ago didn't feel quite as significant.

But as a school side from the county returned to Croke Park on Saturday, perhaps their Hogan Cup All Ireland success was the one to usher forth a new wave of optimism for the county's future.

'A lot of us can play senior county level and put Armagh GAA back on the map where it should be.' 🙌🏽 St Ronan's College...

Posted by Belfast Telegraph Sport on Monday, April 9, 2018

That's the hope of St Ronan's goal-scorer Tiernan Kelly, who could scarcely take it all in, gazing at the thousands of smiling Lurgan supporters who had made the trip south to watch their side edge out Rice College, Westport, by a single point.

"I can't put it into words," he said. "This is something we couldn't even dream of at the start of the year.

"We were saying in there, not many of us can go on to play in this arena but there are a whole lot of us in there that can go on and play county senior football and put Armagh back on the map, where it should be."

Before their victorious MacRory Cup campaign had begun, few would have named the school as key contenders. With St Ronan's only formed from an amalgamation in 2015 and without a grass pitch to call their own, it wasn't the story of an expected All Ireland champion.

But if any of the talented squad do go on to reach senior county level, the underdog tag is one they will no doubt take on once again. And there's a reason that label hasn't limited their progress, according to Kelly.

"It just shows that hard work beats anything," he said. "You don't need the best facilities, you don't need everything like that. All you need is a good team, good management and hard work. This is where you can get to.

"I would preach that to any other football team who may not think they can get to these places. Honestly, you can if you put the hard work in."

As for Kelly's goal itself, in truth it carried little of the flare that Oisin Smyth's winning point possessed in abundance.

"It was a bit lucky, it took a few deflection, but I'll take it not a problem," laughed the honest midfielder.

"I'll be the first one to admit it - my dad wouldn't let me take it otherwise. It is what it is.

"This means so much to the whole town, the county of Armagh, Ulster itself - all of the support and all of our hard work has paid off with everyone getting behind us."

It was undoubtedly a dogged display by a well-organised and talented bunch, now how long before we see any of them on the senior county stage?

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