Armagh have firepower and motivation to get past Donegal
Nicky Rackard Cup round one: Donegal v Armagh (Saturday, 1pm, O’Donnell Park, Letterkenny)
WHEN Jarlath Burns speaks about changing the playing rules of Gaelic football, he often refers to the fear of “unintended consequences”.
Donegal left themselves with a set of unintended consequences as a result of their training weekend in Dunfanaghy, which they chosen instead of playing their Ulster Championship relegation playoff with Down.
The consequence they knew was relegation, and they accepted that, but what they didn’t perhaps bargain for was seemingly handing a serious motivation to Armagh for this afternoon’s Nicky Rackard Cup opener.
If Orchard boss Sylvester McConnell’s comments following their Ulster final loss to Antrim last Sunday are anything to go by then Armagh will be chewing the seats on the bus to Letterkenny.
“I’m never short of motivation. The answer will be when we play Donegal. We have to dig deep, and we will.
“Six days [recovery] has left us in a tricky position. The Nicky Rackard’s very important for us. For us to make progress, we have to get out of the Nicky Rackard.
“We’ve been in the final this two years and those big games have helped us grow. We want to be out of a final, in the Christy Ring.
“That team held its own in a higher league with Christy Ring teams, so that’s where they need to be. It was good to get to another Ulster final, it was good progress and Antrim were sharp, but we need to be winning our Nicky Rackard.
“Donegal’s a big, big game for us and we hope to come out of there.”
Two consecutive final defeats is a sore point alright, but the real mental barrier is trying to lift themselves after a deflating 22-point defeat by Antrim in Owenbeg last weekend.
Granted, the Saffrons were very sharp and used the wide open spaces and the first half gale at their backs to their great advantage.
But it wasn’t the real Armagh that we saw either. Their striking was way below the standard they’ve set. There were very few individual battles they got the better of. Their forwards didn’t click and their defence was left badly exposed to a very dangerous set of forwards.
Donegal’s promotion from Division 3A was followed up by a display against a much-changed Antrim team in the Ulster semi-final that displayed a level of gutsiness but also highlighted their limitations.
Tipperary native David Flynn, a former intermediate player with the Premier county, looked a real livewire in attack and given how Armagh’s corner backs both struggled with the pace of Conor Johnston and Ciaran Clarke last week, there may need to be a rethink in terms of the make-up of their full-back line.
But Flynn was the only Donegal forward to score against Antrim and with Enda McDermott and Kevin Campbell both still absent, they could struggle in that department.
Armagh could, however, come up against one of their own sons as well. Declan Coulter transferred to Donegal earlier in the year after setting up home there, and should be available to Ardal McDermott for the clash with his native county.
The Orchard may have Eoin McGuinness available after injury but otherwise, their line-up should be close to last Sunday’s.
Fuelled by the desire for redemption and Donegal salvaging the extra few days’ rest in between, Armagh should have enough fire in the belly and firepower up front to lay down the first marker.