D-day for Armagh

D-day for Armagh
Eugene Creaney


Eugene Creaney



Armagh manager Kieran Mc Geeney faces his biggest game of his managerial career to date when his Orchard side go into the lion’s den on Sunday to face Donegal in their Ulster opener.

The retrospective debat on suspensions or otherwise, and the credence surrounding legal technicalities on "official" footage etc, will be history when the Ulster sides meet in Ballybofey.

To be fair, McGeeney does very little shadow boxing before or indeed after games. He played honest and lines out an honest side, but there can be no doubt that Declan Bonner’s men will again tease the mettle of the new Ulster contenders, irrespective of the "official" or "unofficial" footage on offer.

With quality still on the bench, Armagh looked out of the game in real terms when Aidan Nugent capitalised on a keeper’s error last time out. At that stage the home side looked a yard quicker and more clever throughout the pitch.

Bonner’s outfit on Sunday start as favourites,  but only just.

The potential Armagh line out has more questions than answers. If Andy Murnin is fit, did he do enough in Letterkenny to start on Sunday? Is Stefan Campbell to be continually known as a super sub? And will Rian O’Neill have the maturity to handle the verbals which will no doubt be handed out in a mentally and physically gruelling 70 plus minutes.

Maghery's ultra-consistent Aidan Forker (pictured), who is essentially the side’s "spiritual leader", will no doubt attempt to interrupt the silky Michael Murphy who could be bombed with long deliveries on the edge of the square.

With favourable conditions expected, the cutting edge delivered from the recent period of uncertainty, and current excitement has leaned to producing possibly the most eagerly-awaited game of the decade. Armagh fans wont need reminding that 20 years ago the side won Ulster before being crowned All Ireland champions.

McBrearty, Murphy and Brennan can be matched by the visitors’ first XV and a potent bench. Ethan Rafferty between the sticks or otherwise will have a huge role to play, but with just one win in five since the top performances against the Dubs and Tyrone, neutralising any potential notion of greatness, the county's fans can for the moment only be cautiously optimistic.

The dour days of Division 3 are well in the past, but Ulster is a minefield, with the most excitement in real terms provided by the most potent side in Monaghan.

Armagh fans will swell Ballybofey on Sunday. Is Conor Turbitt set to start or torment a flagging defender in the last quarter? McGeeney has been ultra-consistent with Clann Eireann's Tiernan Kelly, who started and excelled in all games.

Converted midfielder Jarly Og Burns has been a revelation at wing back, and is Niall Grimley finally to be rewarded with a midfield slot?

Donegal look more seasoned at this level, and although it wouldn't be any form of surprise to see an away win, ring craft and a more potent front six may be enough for Declan Bonner’s side.

If the "will they wont they" saga hasn't unsettled the Armagh players, it should be quite a contest. Expect a very low scoring first half. 

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