A history of Armagh Minors semi-final encounters

Armagh play in their first All-Ireland semi-final in 15 years and Brendan McCann takes a look back at their history of last four appearances.

The inaugural season of Minor Championship football saw Armagh claim the Ulster crown of 1930 against Monaghan at Carrickmacross. Felix Grant (Crossmaglen) created history when he netted on three occasions, thereby qualifying to face Dublin.

Played at Croke Park, the Dublin team were out of the traps quickly, scoring 1-2. A Joe Heenan goal before half-time breathed new life into the Armagh challenge.

When Dublin were reduced to fourteen, further optimism ensued. But Armagh only troubled the scorekeeper once in the remainder of the game, through a Jim Corrigan point, going down 1-3 to 1-1when the whistle sounded.

Armagh play in their first All-Ireland semi-final in 15 years and Brendan McCann takes a look back at their history of last four appearances.

It would be almost a generation before Armagh graced the semi-final stage again. Sligo were the opponents in Lurgan, before a 4,000 strong crowd. Sean Smith proved inspirational on the day, registering 3-1 as Armagh reached a first national decider in the grade.

Armagh went on to capture the All-Ireland title for the first time, defeating Kerry by two points. Players such as Jack Brattan and John McKnight who would go on to play in the 1953 All-Ireland Senior Football final. 

Games against Kerry in the All-Ireland minor series became a feature over the years. Armagh have faced the Kingdom at this stage more often than any other county.

Armagh Minors winning run

This also proved a very successful period for the Armagh minors, winning four provincial titles in a six-year period. Kerry made a visit to the Athletic Grounds for the All-Ireland semi-final of 1951.

A John Crossey penalty and five points saw the home side ahead, leading 1-6 to 0-4 at the turnaround. A late late show by the visitors saw them claw back a four-point deficit to force a replay.

Four weeks later, the counties met at Croke Park, in a great game, which saw scores extremely precious.  With seven minutes left on the clock, Kerry led by 0-6 to 0-3 before John Hanratty finished a great move to the net.

In the dying moments, fellow Armagh Harps clubman Paddy McArdle netted, to give Armagh a 2-3 to 0-7 win.

Armagh play in their first All-Ireland semi-final in 15 years and Brendan McCann takes a look back at their history of last four appearances.
Photo Credit: Sinead Snaps

In a twist of events, Armagh were forced to replay their Ulster final in December before losing narrowly to Roscommon in the decider nine days prior to Christmas 1951.

Seventy-one years ago, Armagh were paired with this weekend’s opponents Mayo, with Longford being the venue. On a rain-filled day, with the surface and ball making conditions particularly tricky, Mayo adopted best, building up a 4-1 to 0-2 lead at the break.

A goal from Jim Keegan of Culloville and three Pat Mallon (Killeavy) points provided solace in the second period. But Mayo won the day 5-2 to 1-5.

Back to back

The next year, Armagh returned to the All-Ireland semi-finals. Kerry sought and achieved revenge for the replay defeat three years earlier. Two snap goals after a bright start by the Orchard County proved knockout blows, with Kerry winning 4-9 to 0-6.

Armagh were well-represented on the day by stalwarts like Jimmy Whan (Madden) and Felix McKnight (Killeavy). It was Armagh’s turn to extract revenge when the same counties crossed swords in 1957. It looked unlikely as Kerry led by eight with 22 minutes gone.

Although Armagh went in only three behind at the break, a further major for the Kingdom in the opening minutes of the second period saw the margin increase, being the moment for an inspired switch to turn the game.

Armagh play in their first All-Ireland semi-final in 15 years and Brendan McCann takes a look back at their history of last four appearances.

Kevin Halpenny moved outfield from full-forward and wrestled control for the Orchard County. As time ticked on, Johnny Toner fisted the ball to the net to equalise and points from Seamus Mallon and Jimmy Murphy gave their side an exciting 3-7 to 3-5 success.

In 1961, Armagh faced Cork for a final berth. A Cyril O’Connor goal after 14 minutes brought Armagh level and two points from Sean Hegarty brought it back to one with ten minutes left, before the side lost out 0-12 to 1-6. 

Sligo made their first All-Ireland final by ousting Armagh from the competition in 1968. Just like 1961, Armagh were keen to mirror the exploits of neighbours Down at senior level, but to no avail.

Martin Murphy scored 1-1 in the dying minutes to make it a one score game, but The Yeats County prevailed 1-6 to 1-3.

A 41st minute penalty miss could have steered the encounter in a different direction, with 55 frees awarded over the hour. Peter Loughran had been a thorn in the Sligo rearguard throughout with excellent play.

Bright sparks

Lean times in Armagh football in this grade followed, before a bright new talented team emerged in 1992. In a very entertaining encounter, when midfield pairing of Paul McGrane and Barry O’Hagan took control, there was no way back for opponents Roscommon.

A Diarmuid Marsden goal gave Armagh a narrow 14th minute lead, before a 29th minute Des Mackin goal put the lads in orange into a lead they would never lose. A 49th minute major, again from Mackin, snuffed out the challenge from the westerners.

Armagh suffered heartbreak in the decider when a last gasp Meath goal won the day. Days like that proved important learning milestones in the search for Sam Maguire in later years.

Armagh play in their first All-Ireland semi-final in 15 years and Brendan McCann takes a look back at their history of last four appearances.
Photo Credit: Sinead Snaps

Goals at key times for Kerry proved the difference in the 1994 semi-final. The Kingdom built a six-point half-time lead on the back of 10th and 30th minute three-pointers, with Armagh relying on the accuracy of frees from Paul O’Hagan for second half scores.

Armagh’s most recent semi-final appearance was back in 2009, before the team brought a second All-Ireland Minor title to the Orchard County by defeating this weekend’s opponents Mayo in the final.

En route it was Kerry again trying to block the pathway, indeed their keeper made several stunning saves to maintain the Munster challenge before Rory Grugan put Armagh ahead for the first time in the 38th minute, one of his 0-6 tally.

This was either side of two goals from Gavin McParland which turned the dial in Armagh’s direction, aided by strong midfield performances from Peter Carragher and James Donnelly.

2024 brings a new chapter to Armagh’s history in the All-Ireland Minor series. Best wishes to all involved this weekend, the county is with you every bit of the way!