Mallon and Armagh focused on getting job done against Ulster rivals Monaghan

Armagh were winners over Monaghan when the sides met in the Ulster Senior Championship earlier this year and they are favourites to repeat that win and seal a place in the All-Ireland quarter-finals today Picture: Philip Walsh.
Louise Gunn

TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship Group B round 3: Armagh v Monaghan (Today, Athletic Grounds, 2pm)

ARMAGH and Monaghan will battle it out for a place in this year’s TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship quarter-final when they meet this afternoon in the Athletic Grounds.

The Orchard County are red hot favourites to take victory against their neighbours and anything less will be a disappointment for the Ulster champions.

They met in the Ulster championship semi-finals back at the beginning of May in what was a very one-sided encounter, Armagh coming away from Clones with a comfortable 5-21 to 0-5 victory.

However, despite being overwhelming favourites, they know they have a job to do - a game to win – and as captain Kelly Mallon says they must take nothing for granted.

“Tags, labels, other people’s perceptions mean nothing to us, the only opinions that matter are the opinions of those in our management team and panel. It’s a knock-out championship game and we are really looking forward to it,” said Mallon, who was named The Croke Park/LGFA Player of the Month for May earlier this week.

The two sides come into this crunch game on the back of recent meetings with the All-Ireland champions, Meath. Armagh drew last week with the Royals 0-9 apiece will Monaghan lost 1-13 to 0-1.

The Farney may set themselves up very defensively just as they did against Meath. With everyone behind the ball, they tried to contain the All-Ireland champions as much as possible, limiting their scoring chances. Orchard boss Ronan Murphy was a keen observer of the Monaghan Meath game so he will have had a good chance to see how Monaghan set up and how to counteract that.

It too will be a very different game for Armagh after last week’s epic tussle with Meath. A share of the spoils was enough for Meath after that opening group game win over Monaghan and they are safely through to the last eight.

Armagh could have beaten Meath. They had a couple of late chances including one that resulted in a fine save from Royal goalkeeper Monica McGuirk.

Mallon says though they were not too disappointed to have come away with the draw.

“We always want to win and that’s a given but we’re not disappointed, we didn’t spend too much time looking back as we want to move on to our next challenge.

“Of course we looked at where we can improve and hopefully we can bring that into the Monaghan game,” she said.

“We’re not entirely sure how Monaghan will set up as everyone tends to adapt their game to play Meath, due to their defensive set up. It’s hard to know what way they’ll approach this one in terms of their set-up but we have to focus on ourselves and focus on delivering a performance that meets our standards. As the games come thick and fast we need to adapt quickly on game days so Monaghan will be no different.”

If Armagh win both they and Meath will finish on four points from their two games with the final group standings decided on scoring difference, so for Armagh to finish top and they will need to win by more than 15 points.

But, this is as crucial a game for Monaghan as it is for Armagh. Going into this game, they are still in with a chance of making the quarter-finals and at the same time keep their senior championship status. Defeat, however, will mean they enter the battle to avoid relegation. It's finely poised and it’s all to play for.

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