‘No quarter asked or given’ as unbeaten Armagh host Donegal in top of the table showdown

Division Two big hitters will battle it out at Box-IT Athletic Grounds

Armagh's Rory Grugan attempts to escape the attention of Louth's Craig Lennon during Saturday night's National League clash. Picture by Mark Marlow
Rory Grugan scored a first half goal as Armagh made it three out-of-three against Kildare. Picture by Mark Marlow

THERE will be “no quarter asked or given” when Division Two’s top dogs go head-to-head at the Box-IT Athletic Grounds next Sunday, predicts Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney.

Both have three wins out of three and a single point of scoring difference (Armagh’s is 27, Donegal’s is 26) separates the Ulster rivals going into a derby battle that is likely to see the winners top the table and clinch promotion back to the top flight.

Armagh have racked up 4-44 in three games so far and conceded just 29 points thanks to a one-in, all-in well organised defensive system in front of goalkeeper Blaine Hughes who completed a hat-trick of clean sheets in Carlow on Sunday as the Orchardmen dominated struggling Kildare.

Meanwhile, Donegal have been equally impressive under Jim McGuinness. The Tir Chonaill side has amassed 3-49 over their three victories and conceded 2-26 at the other end.

“We know what’s ahead of us this weekend with Donegal,” said McGeeney.

“They’ve been very prolific in their goal-scoring and their high-scoring so we’re going to have to be at our best.

“Both teams seem to be going well and there’ll be no quarter asked or given, I’m assuming. And then we have Cavan and Fermanagh and the way Ulster is going at the minute every game is going to be tight.”

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney with assistants Ciaran McKeever (left) and Kieran Donaghy (right)
Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney with Ciaran McKeever (left) and Kieran Donaghy (right)

McGeeney was able to bring quality operators like Oisin O’Neill and Jarly Og Burns off the bench on Sunday as his team virtually cantered to a 14-point victory. Confidence levels are very low in the Kildare camp and at no point was there a sense that the Leinster outfit might rouse themselves for a comeback or that they expected to win the game.

Kildare manager Glen Ryan has borne the brunt of criticism after three losses on-the-trot and McGeeney expressed his support for the embattled Lilywhite bainisteoir.

“I’ve been on the receiving end of it and I have seen all the stories,” he said.

“There are always fellas with great ideas who are not on the line, to me there is never a big queue for that particular job.

“I wouldn’t know any bigger Kildare men than Johnny (Doyle), Roly (Sweeney), Glen (Ryan) and Anthony (Rainbow), they are good men and sometimes when you don’t have the support it is hard and things run against you.

“I definitely wouldn’t be knocking them; they are good men and I know they are taking out whatever is there.

“So, it is a tough run for anybody, on another day they could easily beat you, they have plenty of talent there, but it is a tough division, Division Two, it always has been for that next group trying to push on. It is just tough, some days it goes for you and some days it doesn’t.”

At the publication of his annual report recently, GAA Director General Tom Ryan confirmed that a working group will be set up to formulate ideas to encourage more risk-taking and excitement in Gaelic Football. McGeeney insists that the game has never been as entertaining.

“There were high-scoring games last night but nobody is going to say: ‘We need to stop all these scores’,” he said.

“You have a few low-scoring games and football is terrible. I have said this over and over but all you have to do is watch videos and I played in it and it is not half as good as people remember, not half as good.

“It was the same in the ‘70s and ‘80s, it just keeps going on and on but we must be the most negative sport in the world. It is funny, I always get cracked up when I am called dour and sad and I don’t smile.

“The stories I read or that I am sent is that the world is going to end in the GAA but it has never been as popular, the crowds are big, they’re making money… I don’t know what people want.”