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We like to keep the fans on the edge of their seats, admits Armagh captain Rory Grugan

 

On the rise: Armagh captain Rory Grugan
On the rise: Armagh captain Rory Grugan
Kieran McGeeney
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

Armagh captain Rory Grugan has told of his immense relief that the Orchard county were finally able to win their first game in the Ulster Championship since 2014 in edging out Down in a closely-fought thriller.

"The big feeling is of relief, to be honest," said the Ballymacnab man.

"On a personal level, definitely with my own performance and also being in a winnable position with 10, 15 minutes to go, it would have been very hard to swallow to have thrown that away.

"But then, given being three points down at half-time of extra-time, I think we showed brilliant character in the second half.

"The impact from the bench, the young players who stood up, it was brilliant to see that.

"I got a taste of it for the five, 10 minutes I was on the bench and the nerves for the last few minutes. We like to keep the fans on the edge of their seats!"

On the altercation between the rival sets of players and some management at the end of normal time, he explained: "I am going to do the Arsene Wenger and say I didn't see it.

"There's a good rivalry there with your neighbours and they had their tails up after coming back so strongly, and I suppose they wanted to send out a message before extra-time.

"Teams don't want to back down in those scenarios.

"That's just normal, it's what you get in Ulster football and that was them showing they didn't want it to slip in the same way we didn't."

It's been over a decade since Armagh last featured in the blue ribband day of Ulster football.

In 2008, they saw off Fermanagh after a replay but they haven't come too close since, the nearest being a replay loss to Monaghan in 2014.

Now they face surprise package Cavan, who underlined their Championship credentials by producing a storming win over Monaghan at Kingspan Breffni Park on Saturday night.

"We all would have watched Cavan on Saturday night and saw how impressive they were, and our record hasn't been good against them in the Ulster Championship over the last couple of years either," said Grugan.

"We will be up against it but it will definitely be a motivating factor, the same as any team going into an Ulster semi-final. You are just one game away from a big day and we haven't been in an Ulster final since 2008.

"So it is a long time coming but you know yourself, you can't look that far ahead or you are going to be caught."

Armagh could have exacted a heavy toll for Sunday's win.

Substitute Stephen Sheridan had been struggling with injury anyway and he had to come off after shipping a heavy knock.

Others that left the fray included corner-back Patrick Burns after just seven minutes, and Aidan Forker.

However, the nature of the win over Down will provide them with a belief that they can go on to achieve within their own province.

"It will be a big boost in terms of the character we showed.

"We showed great character so we hope to use it as a launchpad for the semi-final," he added.

Meanwhile, Armagh officials could be sweating on a possible sideline ban for manager Kieran McGeeney after the scenes at the end of normal time in their extra-time win over Down on Sunday.

Television cameras caught a moment where there was a coming together with McGeeney and Down's Kevin McKernan.

This comes a matter of days after the Central Competitions Control Committee handed Dublin hurling selector Greg Kennedy a two-match, or four-week, touchline ban after he prevented a TJ Reid free reaching his Kilkenny team-mate Billy Ryan.

Although referee Cathal McAllister spoke to Kennedy at the time, he did not escape punishment.

For some time now, GAA officials have taken a dim view of unseemly scenes involving managerial teams and players.

Last October, two Kerry sides in East Kerry and Dingle were given €1,000 fines and a selector Colm Geaney was handed an eight-week suspension for his role in a melee.

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