Hard road can stand to Armagh in tie of the weekend

Galway have also been impressive but late fade-outs could prove costly

All-Ireland SFC quarter-final: Sunday, Galway v Armagh, Croke Park, 1.45pm, live on RTÉ 2

By coincidence the counties played a very similar match 21 years ago in the old third-round qualifier: an eagerly awaited contest from which the winners could expect a real bounce. Galway emerged back then and duly won the All-Ireland.

Might history repeat itself? There are strong grounds for believing that whoever wins, has a very good chance of reaching the final next month.

The flurry of enthusiasm for Armagh after the Donegal drubbing has fallen prey to accusations of recency bias but a good display isn’t any less good because it was two rather than four weeks ago.

Some of their players are in terrific form, primus inter pares Rian O’Neill but also Jarlath Óg Burns and Rory Grugan and their nicely blended game has been easy on the eye and effective. Ethan Rafferty has taken the fly-goalie craze to new extremes.

A fortnight before Armagh lit up Clones, Galway were performing very impressively in Salthill, putting away Roscommon and despite late leakage never looking like they would lose.

There were the usual suspects but Rob Finnerty really added to the full forward line with Shane Walsh and Damien Comer for a collective haul of 1-11 from play. Their defence with its extra cover will complicate things for Armagh whereas Paul Conroy has been having an All Star year, as an attacking centrefielder.

Both sides showed weaknesses in their last outings. Donegal overhauled the early concession of a goal to play their best football of the match by cutting out the indecisive keep-ball and timorous approach work of the Ulster final. This brisk approach and early ball attack put real pressure on Armagh. Pádraic Joyce will have paid attention.

Galway have for their part tuned out of matches towards the end, as a result jeopardising the win against Mayo and allowing Roscommon escape with a semi-respectable beating.

Making the call between the teams is really difficult, which is why this is the match of the weekend. The instinct here is Armagh, simply because they have had more rigorous stress testing as well as the ultimate diagnostic of getting beaten earlier in the season.

Their response has been really strong and they have already given a very good display in Croke Park back when getting Dublin’s year off to a grim start on the league’s opening weekend.

Verdict: Armagh

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times