'I'll take any Ulster SFC win' - McGeeney

Kieran McGeeney's "delight" at his Armagh side's progression to another Ulster Football Final masked any misgivings he may had about the manner of the tense 0-13 to 2-6 semi-final win over Down.

Armagh were a point down with three minutes of normal time remaining but closing scores from substitutes Aidan Nugent and Jason Duffy meant they eked out a fortunate victory.

However, McGeeney's side have been on the wrong end of many tight games during his 10-season reign - including last year's Ulster Final penalty shootout defeat - and he was in chipper mood after Saturday's Clones contest.

"I’m very happy with the way the boys dug the game out," said the Armagh boss.

"We’ve had games like that there [during my playing career] when we were at the top of our game, All-Ireland champions, and losing them against teams who were in Division Two so I’ll take a win in the Ulster Championship any day of the week."

McGeeney added that his team had shown "composure under a lot of stress" as goals from Ceilum Doherty and Ryan Magill had looked set to help earn the Mournemen a surprise victory.

He wasn't having any of the suggestion that his team had exhibited pressure brought on by being seemingly everybody's favourites to progress to the provincial decider from what was commonly regarded as the weaker half of the Ulster draw.

"I don’t think so. I haven’t seen a bad team anyway. Fermanagh’s in Division Two the same division as us.

"Everybody makes a call and it’s the same whether it’s Cavan v Tyrone, Derry v Donegal…..if there’s a division between those does that make it easy for them? That’s the answer to the question.

"To me one division in sport, especially in GAA isn’t that big a deal.

"It’s very hard to win sometimes no matter what you do. I’m just delighted for the boys.

"They won today’s game. They are in an Ulster Final again. They are probably going to do in as underdogs this time, which probably is no harm."

'We totally believed in the game plan'

While McGeeney's "delight" or perhaps more accurately 'relief' was palpable, Down boss Conor Laverty spoke of his "heartbreak" after his side had made Armagh looked decidedly ordinary but ultimately paid for missed chances - including a 25-yard free from straight in front kicked wide by Pat Havern in the first half.

"We put a lot of time and effort into that game. Our lives were on hold since the Antrim game," said the Kilcoo man.

"We totally believed in the game plan. But coming down the straight we just didn’t tag on enough scores and that’s what left us coming up short.

"Everything that we talked about, a lot of pieces of the jigsaw all fitted today, it was just the final piece that let us down and that’s the heartbreaking thing.

"But I don’t think anybody could ask any more of those players. The effort and the attitude. I think they did the jersey very, very proud today."

Conor Laverty gives instructions to his Down players during the Ulster semi-final at Clones
Conor Laverty said securing a place in the Super 16s would have been a "big thing" for his Down team [Inpho]

However Laverty wasn't biting on moral victories after it was put to him that Down, on the balance of play, probably just about deserved to win.

"I’m not massive into that. It’s about winning. Great teams get over the line. But this is a young Down team against quality opposition like Armagh.

"Playing against the better teams, that’s where you learn. It’s no good winning games by seven, eight, 10 points because you don’t really learn anything.

"Our boys will take a lot from that game today and they are heartbroken in that changing room."

A Down win would also have secured Laverty's side a Super 16s spot but instead they have to be content with another tilt at the second-tier Tailteann Cup after being beaten finalists against Meath last summer.

"That was a big thing and that’s no disrespect to any other competition. That was our aim to get promoted and then get a case where we wanted to get into the Sam Maguire but we’ll give the next competition our utmost respect.