Croke Park was 'just two points' says Blaine Hughes as Armagh prepare for Tyrone visit
ARMAGH did all that could have been asked of them on Saturday night when they dominated Dublin at Croke Park but, in the cold light of day, it was two points in the bag, says Blaine Hughes.
The other three Division One games all finished drawn so the Orchard county go into the second round of games top of the table but with All-Ireland champions coming to Armagh City on Sunday, Carrickcruppen goalkeeper Hughes says the Orchardmen have to move on quickly from their confidence-building.
“It was a great win but it’s just two points,” said Hughes after Armagh’s five-point victory.
“We’re just trying to be competitive in every game and we showed that we can be. We want to put our best foot forward and we did tonight and it was a good performance from the whole team.
“When you’re playing in Croke Park everyone has to stand up and we did that but we’ll not be resting on our laurels, we have another big game next week against the All-Ireland champions.
“We’ll try and do the same as we did here, try and be as competitive as we can and hopefully we can get the win and show people that we belong in Division One.”
Dublin were minus several injured regulars on Saturday night but Dessie Farrell still fielded half-a-dozen Allstars in Ciaran Kilkenny, Brian Howard, Eoin Murchan, Niall Scully, Dean Rock and John Small.
Meanwhile, Armagh kept a number of experienced campaigners on the bench and went with relative rookies Ciaran Mackin in midfield and Tiarnan Kelly in the half-forward line.
“The boys that came in took their chance,” said Hughes.
“There’s been a lot of hard work in the background there, training three nights a week and the boys were flying there after the McKenna Cup run.”
Covid ruled Hughes out of last year’s Ulster Championship semi-final against Monaghan and, although deputy Shea Magill did well when thrown in at the deep end, his absence was felt as the Farneymen won a classic at Pairc Esler.
“The timing was awful,” said Hughes.
“I was a bit annoyed after we had done so well in the Antrim game. Yeah, it was frustrating but there’s no point worrying about it now, I just have to push on and focus on this year ahead.”
Back in the team for the McKenna Cup, Hughes has looked his usual energetic self and his kick-outs were accurate throughout Saturday night’s victory in Dublin.
“That’s down the movement of the boys out the field,” he explained.
“Once there’s plenty of movement it makes my job easy. We’ve done a bit of work on it and it’s all about them working hard and creating movement for space.”
This year the Ulster Championship starts on April 16 with the preliminary round game between Fermanagh and Tyrone at Brewster Park. Armagh launch their bid for a first provincial crown at since 2008 against Donegal at Ballybofey on April 24.
After their win on Saturday night, the Orchard odds will have shortened and Hughes agrees that the early Championship start puts more onus on League form.
“Our training has got tougher over the last couple of weeks,” he said.
“Normally you have that break between the League campaign and the Championship but now, because they’re closer together, it’s all about staying fresh and staying injury-free.”