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Allianz Hurling League finals should be at Croke Park says Armagh manager Padraig O'Connor

Padraig O'Connor has guided Armagh hurlers to the Division 3A final, where they will face Roscommon on Sunday
Padraig Kelly

ARMAGH manager Padraig O’Connor is the latest to throw his weight behind the push to have all National Hurling League finals staged at Croke Park.

A tweet from Wicklow hurler Warren Kavanagh last Sunday asking why all football finals are held at the Jones’ Road venue yet only the Division One hurling final gets the same opportunity received plenty of support.

O’Connor, whose Armagh side face Roscommon in the Division 3A final at Páirc Tailteann on Sunday, echoed those thoughts and suggested that there were ways to build up the attendance.

“It’s something I never really thought of before because I suppose we’ve had opportunities (to play at Croke Park) regularly enough in Nicky Rackard finals,” he said.

“It would make sense though if Croke Park was open to all the hurling finals. It’s the national GAA stadium, not the national football stadium.

“You could have the 2B, 3A and 3B finals all on the one day and you could play the 2A final along with maybe one of the Division One quarter-finals.

“In this part of the world, and in the weaker counties, it’s all about raising the profile of the game.

“The more you promote the game the better. The more you promote it the more kids will want to play and we need bodies. Finals at Croke Park would certainly be one way to do that.”

It’s something that won’t change this season, though, with this weekend’s fixtures already set in stone.

O’Connor is in no doubt that his side enter this weekend’s final in Navan as underdogs, especially as Roscommon left the Athletic Grounds with a four-point win last month.

The decisive period came either side of half-time when Ciaran Comerford’s side raised 10 white flags without reply. Armagh did respond to draw level, but the visitors finished the better of the two.

“They are a big, strong team – bigger and stronger than us – and they play a nice brand of hurling,” O’Connor said of the Rossies.

“You have to just work out a plan to try and stop them and hopefully the experience of playing them already will stand to us, although obviously that will help them too.

“You just have to think of a plan to counteract their strengths and try and get enough scores at the other end.”

The Orchard county been hit by a raft of retirements over the last two seasons and the manager said that they are very much still at the start of a rebuilding process as they attempt to move back up the divisions.

“I have been really pleased with the progress of the team.

“The plan was to reach a League final and we have achieved that objective. Anything else we get out of Sunday will be a bonus.

“You have to steady the ship and build a base to work from and I would say we have achieved that.

“It’s confidence-building from here on in. If you can achieve a victory on Sunday, that’s great. If you don’t, make sure you put in a performance.

I’m really pleased with the effort of the group as a whole.”

O’Connor has also paid tribute to former Derry hurler Ruairi Convery who was added to the management team ahead of the 2019 season.

“Ruairi has been first class and he has bedded in really, really well,” he said.

“The boys have really taken to him. A lot of our older boys would have played against him in the past and there would have been that respect there already.”

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