The delayed victory is perhaps the sweetest! To succeed after having experienced much disappointment, to achieve your objective after much toil and tears and a century and more waiting, is perhaps the greatest success of all!

Many non-Armachians would scarcely have been aware in the past that Armagh had never secured a senior All-Ireland title. That such a strong footballing county should be deprived of the ultimate prize seemed unjust. But sport, like life in general, can be unfair. Memories of 1953 and 1977 were deeply embedded in the minds of Armagh people, from Crossmaglen to Lurgan, from Middletown to Newtownhamilton. The wounds of defeat on All-Ireland Day do not easily heal, especially when the cup has never been lifted.
But healing would come. 2002 was the year when the dream would come true, the young men in saffron and white would do the business in Croke Park and “The Boys from the County Armagh” would be sung the length and breadth of the Orchard County and well beyond, with a gusto and pride as never before. An irrepressible hunger had been sated, a gaping vacuum had been filled.

To congratulate Joe Kernan and his assistants, Paul Grimley and John McCloskey, and their mighty band of thirty men, while obviously appropriate, seems completely inadequate. Our first word should in a sense be one of thanks. For the unmitigated joy which they have brought, for their resolute generosity and commitment to their kinsmen and -women, we are truly grateful. They carried our fragile dreams and hopes with the greatest of care and attention and realised them for us with a skill and finesse well beyond our wildest anticipation. I heard of one woman in Armagh who watched the match on television with her 93 year-old grandmother. After the game they toured Armagh City to imbibe the atmosphere, to soak in the joy. What one old woman lived to see and perhaps thought she would never live to see, several others died without having witnessed. To complete the work, not just of this generation but of several previous generations, is quite an achievement.

Very soon after All-Ireland Sunday I had the privilege of attending in Coalisland, Co. Tyrone, a youth alcohol and drugs awareness rally. Benny Tierney, the Armagh goalkeeper, was present and spoke. His presence and words obviously resonated with the young people in a way mine couldn’t. To the Armagh players for being such wonderful role models in so many ways to young people, indeed to us all, we say thanks.
Sport is a wonderful gift from God. It demands all that is best in the human heart, the greatest to which the human being can aspire. To the Lord and to all who have made a 2002 an unforgettable year in Armagh we say thank you.

The Archdiocese of Armagh is comprised of territory from four counties – Armagh, Derry, Louth and Tyrone. While I pray that Armagh may continue its winning streak, I hope that Tyrone will also soon experience the irreplaceable and irrepressible joy of lifting the “Sam Maguire”!