Armagh minors take on Leinster champions Longford for place in All-Ireland semi-finals

Orchard youngsters are a talented bunch who work hard says coach Stefan Forker

Armagh minors take on Longford in the All-Ireland quarter-finals at Kinspan Breffni (MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN PHOTOGRAPHY )

Electric Ireland All-Ireland MFC quarter-final

Longford v Armagh (Saturday, Kingspan Breffni, 3pm)

ARMAGH, the first-ever Ulster minor champions in 1930, and Longford (Leinster’s first minor winners a year previously), battle it out for a place in Ireland’s last four at Kingspan Breffni on Saturday afternoon.

Longford beat Dublin in that inaugural Leinster final almost a century ago and they reeled back the years by doing the same again in this year’s extra-time decider. Meanwhile, Armagh reached their first Ulster final in a decade but lost out to Derry and are now aiming to bounce back in this All-Ireland series.

The four provincial final losers play-off against the winners and Armagh coach Stefan Forker says the Aidan O’Rourke-managed Orchard county group immediately pushed the “reset button” after their Ulster setback and intend to grab their opportunity to reach the semi-final stage.

“We had our Ulster Championship journey, we put all we had into that but fell short and now we’re into the All-Ireland series,” said Forker.

“After the Donegal game (Ulster semi-final) we were doubly-delighted to get into the final because it meant we would go on into the All-Ireland quarter-finals which is new territory for Armagh minors – we haven’t got there for a while.

Armagh management
Stefan Forker (right) with the Armagh management team including Aidan O'Rourke (left). Picture: Margaret McLaughlin (MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN PHOTOGRAPHY )

“It’s been a reset for the boys, hopefully the style of football is a bit different than it was in Ulster. A lot of teams in Ulster, even at minor level, are quite structured and methodical in what they’re doing – it’s effective but you watch some of the other provincial games and they’re a wee bit less co-ordinated and structured.

“We’ll see what Longford bring, we’ve done a lot of work and we’re happy to continue the journey.”

Armagh took a first half lead in the Ulster final when Ross Marsden and Jack Loughran combined to set up Eoin Duffy who hammered the ball into the Derry net. However, the Oak Leafers responded well and won the title for the 17th time.

Longford’s name might not necessarily strike fear into opponents in the way Dublin’s might but their Leinster final win didn’t come out of the blue – they also beat the Dubs in the earlier group stage.

Meanwhile, Armagh’s lack of recent form at minor level – their last Ulster title was in 2009 – means they’re not viewed as being among the “big fish” at this grade.

“Longford are Leinster champions and they’re here on merit,” said Forker, an Ulster minor winner with Armagh in 2005 who has had success at schools level with Holy Trinity College in Cookstown.

“If you’re beating a Dublin team you’re no bad side so we treat this like every other game – we go through it, we analyse them, we set up what we need to and we prepare well.

“This Armagh group is very humble, they just eat the work up and they go about their business and do what they’re told. I haven’t had any different vibes from them this week – it’s an All-Ireland quarter-final and we want to win it.

“The lads all know their roles, they want to work hard and do their best to take this opportunity. Armagh have produced senior players from all the teams that weren’t successful but we’re lucky that in this group we have a few good footballers who have all come together.

“We don’t have three or four top-of-the-range footballers, we’re hoping we have a good few coming through all in the one group and that makes us competitive.

“We have a good panel, they work hard and they’re talented and we like to think they’re well prepared. We got to an Ulster final and now we want to go as far as we can in the All-Ireland series because the boys’ talent and their workrate deserves that.”