Armagh aim for first win against dangerous Clare side
Allianz National Football League Division Two: Armagh v Clare (tomorrow, Pairc Esler, 2pm)
WAS it a point lost or a point gained? Armagh had the job almost done in Kildare last weekend but the Lilywhites forced their way back into the game and were able to salvage a draw thanks to a late free from emerging talent Jimmy Hyland.
The Orchardmen had their chances to win and manager Kieran McGeeney was disappointed his men didn't close the game out but taking a point away to a side that played Division One football last year and made the Super 8s wasn't a bad result for Armagh in their first game back in the second tier.
They were understrength too and will be again tomorrow. Ethan Rafferty hopes to return by the end of February but St Paul's clubman Andrew Murnin won't be back until the end of April and the Orchardmen are without home field advantage as a punishment for breaking the pre-season Championship training ban last year.
Newry's Pairc Esler is the venue for tomorrow's game against a dangerous Banner side that had Gary Brennan and David Tubridy among their scorers as they pushed Donegal all the way in Ennis last Sunday.
Declan Bonner's Tir Chonaill men did what Armagh failed to do in Newbridge – they closed out the game and took the points but despite that loss, Clare manager Colm Collins says his players remain steadfastly determined to prove their worth in a typically competitive Division Two series.
“Some of the play when we started to run at Donegal, they couldn't deal with it, so we have to do that more,” said Collins.
“We have to take on the man and get the runners in off the shoulder. We were tight defensively and I don't think we gave up any goal chances for them and we probably spurned one ourselves.
“There's a lot to work on but there are six more games to play and we will play for every point that's there.”
Clare made the trip to Newry last season and game away with two points after a 1-10 to 1-12 win over hosts Down. Then, in the summer, the Bannermen travelled to the Athletic Grounds to face Armagh in the Qualifiers and, with a minute of normal time left, they led by three points.
But Armagh, roared on by their home crowd, pulled the fat out of the fire with a remarkable recovery in injury-time and ended up winning by four points.
The gifted Clare attack certainly impressed Armagh manager McGeeney who said: “I was really impressed with Clare's forward line last summer, they were outstanding” and he will expect movement, quality and creativity from them in Newry tomorrow.
“There wasn't much between Clare and Donegal last weekend so we certainly know what to expect on Sunday,” McGeeney added.
“In Division Two all teams are capable of taking points off each other. We know from playing Clare last summer that they have a really class forward line and we are aware that we will have our work cut out for us no matter what way you look at it.”
Clare – now in their third season in Division Two – will be without forward Eoin Cleary and possibly goalkeeper Rob Eyres who was injured after colliding with a post last weekend. The Munster men will be desperate to open their account after falling short last against Donegal while Armagh need to stick to the script and make their chances count to win tomorrow.
Another entertaining, nip-and-tuck affair looks on the cards between two sides that will look to get the ball into their full-forward lines as quickly as possible. Losing home advantage is a setback for the Orchardmen but not an insurmountable one and they have the quality to register their first win of the season.