Memories Monday – Armagh vs Dublin 2002

 Armagh 1-14 Dublin 1-13

One strike of the post, and Armagh had reached the promised land.

If Ray Cosgrove had the same chance 100 times, he’d split the posts on 99 occasion.

But this one he missed.

A perfect angle for a right footer, roughly 30 yards from goal. Cosgrove had recorded a 100% conversion rate from his six shots so far.

The leading scorer in the 2002 Championship, the full forward won the free himself, having been fouled by Enda McNulty.

Croke Park holds its breath as the most reliable free taker in the country attempts to keep his side in the All-Ireland running.

The ball swings out to the right hand side, slowly drifting back towards the target.

Silence erupts across the stadium, as all Armagh’s hard work looks to have been undone.

The upright comes to the rescue. The Orchard Counties defence latch on to the ricochet shot and smuggle the ball to safety.

Michael Collins checks his watch. He reaches for his whistle, and for the first time since 1977, Armagh secure one of the sacred All-Ireland Final spots.

Eight times the sides were level throughout the 70 plus minutes of action, but it was Oisin McConville, who was unusually off form, who summed up Armagh’s will to win.

The Crossmaglen man didn’t hit the target from play until the 66th minute. Kieran McGeeney’s cross-field pass found McConville, who still had a lot of work to do.

He battled past Paul Casey, steamed along the end-line and sensibly fisted the ball over Stephen Cluxton’s crossbar to fire Armagh ahead for only the third time in the game.

The excitement that captured the second half was unrecognisable in the first.

The sides played out as a mistake-ridden, nervy affair, with neither team able to find their rhythm.

Dublin looked to set the tone early on, grabbing the opening three scores through Senan Connell, Cosgrove and Darren Magee, but the Ulster Champions were soon on level terms.

Points from Paddy McKeever (free), Steven McDonnell and McConville (free) left the score tied at 0-3 to 0-3 after 18 minutes.

Cosgrove ended the first half with 0-4 to his name, and he looked to give his side the lead heading into the interval, but a McConville brace saw the sides locked on six points each at the break.

Then the game exploded into life, with an end to end classic, epitomized by the drama ensued by both sides three-pointers.

After McDonnell had traded scores with Connell, Armagh looked to storm ahead with the first green flag of the day.

John Toal launched the ball towards the square, where possession was broken away from the waiting Diarmaid Marsden.

The on running Paddy McKeever swooped in to claim control and swept aside Cluxton’s challenge to bundle the ball over the goal line.

Armagh had opened up their largest lead of the contest, but Dublin came roaring back within a matter of moments.

Alan Brogan, who shone in the second period, offloaded to Ciaran Whelan. The towering midfield marched his way through the defence and rifled the ball to the roof of the Armagh net.

Game on.

The sides continued to exchange scores, as Man of the Match John McEntee landed a 51st minute point to leave the score 1-10 apiece.

The deadly duo of Brogan and Cosgrove handed Dublin a strong two point lead before Ronan Clarke narrowed the gap at the other end of the field.

John McEntee slotted over his third point to tie the game before his club mate McConville chipped over the match winning score.

Cosgrove can’t take all the blame however, as both Darren Homan and Brogan missed glorious chances before the final action.

Dublin threw away two point leads on three occasions in the second period, with Joe Kernan’s side refusing to wilt.

Armagh’s diamond in the middle third of McGeeney, McGrane, Toal and McEntee stood firm all day long and lead Armagh to the decider.

As it played out, Armagh went on to claim their first ever All-Ireland title when they defeated Kerry the next day out.

Memorable times for the Armagh faithful.

Armagh: Benny Tierney, Enda McNulty, Justin McNulty, Francie Bellew, Aidan O’Rourke, Kieran McGeeney, Andrew McCann, John Toal, Paul McGrane, Paddy McKeever (1-2), John McEntee (0-3), Oisin McConville (0-5), Steven McDonnell (0-2), Ronan Clarke (0-2), Diarmaid Marsden. Subs: Kieran Hughes for A. McCann, Phillip Loughran for J. Toal, Barry O’Hagan for D. Marsden, Cathal O’Rourke for P. McKeever.

Dublin: Stephen Cluxton, Barry Cahill, Paddy Christie, Coman Goggins, Paul Casey, Johnny Magee, Peadar Andrews, Ciaran Whelan (1-1), Darren Magee (0-1), Senan Connell (0-2), Shane Ryan, John McNally, Alan Brogan (0-2), Ray Cosgrove (0-6, 2 frees), Dessie Farrell. Subs: Colin Moran (0-1) for S. Ryan, Darren Homan for D. Magee, Jason Sherlock for J. McNally, Declan Darcy for C. Moran.

The game is available to watch thanks to An Port Mór TV on YouTube!