Armagh v Roscommon’s Croke Park History

Armagh and Roscommon clash in the All-Ireland SFC on the hallowed turf of Croke Park on Saturday afternoon. The prize for the winners is a last four berth in this year’s All-Ireland Senior Football Championship.

It will be the fifth occasion that the counties have crossed swords at Headquarters in the Senior Championship. All of the previous encounters being at the semi-final stage. 

Indeed, each of the past encounters have proven to be of great significance in the history of the combatants. Their initial meeting occurred in Croke Park on 9th August 1953, in an always tensely exciting contest.

Enthused by defeating reigning All-Ireland champions Cavan in the Ulster Final at Casement Park, the prize of a first ever All-Ireland Final was monumental. 

Armagh fans are known the land over and then was no different. 40 buses lined Custom House Quay alone, transporting supporters from all parts of the county. 

First Croker clash

Roscommon played with the breeze in the first half, before a crowd of 40, 372. They took advantage of the elements against a lighter and speedier Armagh outfit by 0-5 to 0-2.

But even at this point, it was evident that the Rossies were over-reliant on Eamonn Donaghue for scores. Whilst the disallowing of an early second-half goal could have unsettled the Orchard men, Gerry O’Neill ensured the attack did not end scoreless with a pointed free.

Armagh and Roscommon clash in the All-Ireland SFC on the hallowed turf of Croke Park on Saturday afternoon.

Roscommon replied quickly with a point of their own. Two points from Art O’Hagan followed by a brace from Gerry O’Neill saw the Ulstermen ahead for the first time. 

Art O’Hagan was impressive throughout and his score entering injury-time was greeted with a magnificent roar. A late reply from Roscommon cut the deficit when a goal was required to overturn the worthy winners. 

Impressive displays were evident throughout the team. Eamonn McMahon, Gene Morgan, Jack Bratten and John McKnight stood out during the 0-8 to 0-7 success.

Scenes of jubilation such as were seldom ever witnessed in Croke Park were ignited upon the final whistle. The Armagh fans swarmed the pitch and carried their heroes shoulder-high to the dressing room.

1977 semi-final

It was not until 14th August 1977 that Armagh graced semi-final action again. The westerners again stood in the way of the men in orange advancing. 

A 19th minute Eamonn McManus goal and unstoppable drive by Dermot Earley, who recorded 1-5, turned the tables in the opening half. Jimmy Smyth had finished an 8th minute move to the net which involved Peter Loughran and Paddy Moriarty. 

Ahead to 2-7 to 1-4 at the turnaround, early Roscommon misses after the restart were punished by a Peter Trainor goal. That helped breathe new life into the Armagh challenge.

Armagh and Roscommon clash in the All-Ireland SFC on the hallowed turf of Croke Park on Saturday afternoon.

Those who had made the trip to support the Ulster Champions were also praised by media after the game. They were described as “a superb support, a heartening heralding of voice and colour that brought atmosphere back with a bang” to Croke Park. 

Roscommon steadied the ship though and with nineteen minutes remaining. They looked to be home and hosed, when seven points to the good. However, they failed to register a score after the 16th minute of the second half.

Momentum swung strongly in the favour of Armagh, with Paddy Moriarty slotting home a penalty. The huge support was on the verge of hysteria when Jimmy Smyth tied the game in the 68th minute.

All square

The long whistle saw the first draw in an All-Ireland semi-final since the 1969. The game finished on a scoreline of Armagh 3-9 Roscommon 2-12. Both teams were required to do it all again on 28th August. 

Observers at the replay commented on the ecstatic reception and such a flouting of orange flags that Armagh received and wondered if it were worth Roscommon’s while coming out at all. The closeness of the scoring kept excitement high throughout. 

Motivated by the crowd, Armagh started in whirlwind fashion, scoring three points without reply in the opening ten minutes.

A great Brian McAlinden save kept the lead intact. Roscommon did grow into the game, levelling it up by the 24th minute. Armagh captain Smyth then raced away to nudge his side back in front.

Armagh and Roscommon clash in the All-Ireland SFC on the hallowed turf of Croke Park on Saturday afternoon.

It took two last gasp scores for Armagh to ensure a narrow lead at the break, which ironically mirrored the final score of the 1953 meeting. 

The second half was nip and tuck. Armagh edged further ahead after the restart to be pegged back by the 20th minute, before going three in front with five minutes to go.

Roscommon were not finished yet and two points ensured a grandstand finish. Armagh held on to secure a second All-Ireland final appearance, winning by 0-15 to 0-14.

1980 last four meeting

Brian McAlinden and Tom McCreesh were stalwarts for Armagh. The midfield pairing of Colm McKinstry and Joe Kernan enjoyed more influence than in the drawn game. Peter Loughran and captain Smyth were the main scorers, sharing two thirds of Armagh’s total.

At half-time when the counties met at the same stage on 10/08/80, the author of this piece, attending his first All-Ireland semi-final, as a nine-year-old, alongside the travelling Armagh faithful in the 36,043 crowd, thought a second final in four years was a distinct possibility. 

Dominant midfield displays by McKinstry and Kernan and major scores from Martin Murphy and Smyth saw the Orchard County carve out a 2-6 to 0-7 advantage. 

The injury to Colm McKinstry proved a significant turning point, as Roscommon’s surging runs in the last quarter caused Armagh severe problems.

A goal from Tony McManus saw Roscommon level before the end of the third quarter. But a brace of Peter Loughran frees, including one which found its way to the net, had Armagh 3-10 to 1-14 ahead with 12 minutes left.

Armagh were held scoreless in the last nine minutes. A Mick Finneran (1-8) goal proved a decisive score in securing Roscommon a place in the decider for the first time since 1962.

This was a second-half display from the Rossies born out of frustration in losing games at the same stage in the previous three seasons. 

There is no doubt that both counties will have great hunger and desire come Saturday. Can Armagh harness the drive and determination which has seen them bounce back from defeats in Ulster Finals and All-Ireland quarter-finals by the cruellest means?

Or will Roscommon banish a losing run of games at Croke Park in the All-Ireland SFC that dates back to the long journey home experienced by the aforementioned nine year-old back in 1980.