GAA Football

Armagh after revenge in Cavan Ulster Championship rematch

Tony Kernan says Armagh were forced to think long and hard after they were hammered by Cavan at Breffni Park
Andy Watters

ARMAGH will have revenge on their minds when they return to Cavan’s Kingspan Breffni Park next month says Tony Kernan.

The Cavan town ground was the scene of Armagh’s chastening 17-point league loss to the Breffni men on March 5. The Orchard men were relegated and it was that defeat which did the damage, so Crossmaglen forward Kernan says Armagh intend to erase the memory of it when they retrace their steps to Cavan on May 29.

“It was a long journey home,” Kernan recalled.

“There was quite a bit of reflection afterwards and the week after the game - it wasn’t an experience that I’d ever like to repeat again and we’ll be doing all in our power over the next five weeks to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“Thinking about closing the gap or trying to get beat by less than 17 points… that sort of attitude wouldn’t be tolerated in our camp. We are going out to win the first game of the Championship against Cavan, that’s what we are planning to do and that’s what we hope to do. We are going to spend the next five weeks working towards it. We haven’t forgotten how much we were beat by. We are trying to work on what we did wrong and make sure that, when we go to Cavan, we win the game.”

Armagh’s results have improved since the loss. They finished the league with draws against Galway and Tyrone and a comfortable win over Ulster rivals Derry, but scoring difference ultimately decided their fate and they were relegated to Division Three.

Preparation for the Ulster Championship quarter-final continued last Saturday when Armagh hosted Donegal in a challenge match that Donegal won 1-11 to 0-5: “From our point of view, we ended the league getting relegated, but we drew a wee bit of optimism from the last three results and we need to keep trying to improve and progress and be ready for Cavan,” said Kernan.

“I think the Cavan game sparked us into a couple of decent performances. We still didn’t get the results that we wanted - we would have liked to be winning each of those games and staying in Division Two. It hasn’t been perfect since, but it certainly has been an improvement.

“Being relegated is something we’ll deal with next year, whenever we start the league again. As soon as the match against Derry was over, our attention switched to the Cavan game and that’s all that we are focusing on.”

Kernan is the only player from county and provincial champions Crossmaglen likely to start against Cavan. Team-mate James Morgan lined out for the Rangers in a recent league game, but he won’t feature at inter-county until next season because he needs surgery on a persistent elbow injury.

Oisin O’Neill and Aidan Rushe impressed a lot of good judges during Crossmaglen’s run to the All-Ireland club quarter-final stage and Kernan views them as potential Armagh stars of the future.

“They are two players who you would think would have a bright future ahead of them,” he said.

“Oisin has never played a league game for Crossmaglen, he’s only played four championship games, so it’s a bit much to ask somebody to jump from four championship games at club level to county level.”

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