CAVAN’S Kingspan Breffni Park is now the likely venue for Armagh’s final group game against table-toppers Galway on June 17/18.
When the fixtures were initially announced, it was supposed that the Armagh-Galway clash (scheduled for a neutral venue) could be headed for Croke Park - perhaps as part of a high-profile double-header. But the underwhelming attendances at last weekend’s second round of group games mean that provincial grounds may be used until the knockout stage begins.
Despite losing to Tyrone last Saturday evening, Armagh still have an outside chance of leap-frogging Galway and taking top spot in the group. To do that, they need to win and hope that Westmeath can spring a surprise on Tyrone in a game that will throw-in simultaneously.
Whether Armagh have skipper Rian O’Neill available for the clash with the Tribesmen will depend on whether the Orchard county lodge an appeal after the Crossmaglen clubman was sent off in the first half at Healy Park.
The Armagh midfielder was shown a straight red card by referee Martin McNally after one his linesmen alerted him to an altercation between O’Neill and Tyrone’s Cormac Quinn.
After the game, which Tyrone won by two points, Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney indicated that the county would appeal the red card, which will carry a one, possibly two-match, suspension. The nature of O’Neill’s alleged infraction won’t be clear until Armagh receive the referee’s report and because Monday is a Bank Holiday in the Republic they don’t expect to see it until Tuesday afternoon.
Saturday’s Ulster derby clash was a tepid affair in which Armagh passed up three early goal chances before Tyrone – who missed one of their own when Peter Harte burst through the Orchard defence – took control with a series of long-range points.
O’Neill’s red card had a massive bearing on a game which limped along in the second half until, with Andrew Murnin outstanding, Armagh did their best to grind out a result in the closing stages and they might have snatched a last-gasp draw had they capitalised on a late fumble by Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan.
Tyrone survived and their win means they are level on points with Armagh and the Ulster pair are two behind Galway who beat Westmeath by eight points (0-20 to 0-12) in Mullingar last weekend.
There is some good news on the injury front for Armagh. Long-term absentees Oisin O’Neill and Ciaron O’Hanlon have both returned to training with the squad.
Older brother of Rian, Oisin O'Neill has been troubled by Achilles Tendon injuries and hasn’t featured for his county since last year’s League clash with Mayo at Dr Hyde Park. Luckless Killeavy clubman O’Hanlon also played in last year's National League but he has been out of action since he ruptured his patella tendon in a club game last year.
“Oisin O’Neill and Ciaran O’Hanlon, who have been long-term injuries for us, are back on the pitch,” Armagh assistant-manager McKeever explained.
“They’re running, they’re getting integrated into football so it’s all about how quick they can adapt and get up to the pace.
“Every week they’re getting sharper, getting better so we’ll have to see how that goes and how they progress over the next number of weeks through their rehab phases and how they perform in the games at training.”