Top of the Table Clash

March 16, 2010


Before a league ball was kicked Saturday night’s return of Paddy O’Rourke, in charge of Armagh, going to Pairc Esler to take on counterpart James McCartan’s Down was always going to be a high profile affair. Little did anyone think at the time that there would be the added pressure that this match would be a top of the table encounter with the winner giving themselves a great chance of progression to the league final.

Down suffered a minor setback at home the last time by being held by Tipperary 0-14 to 1-11 after starting their campaign with a 1-16 to 0-8 away win over Kildare followed by a 0-12 to 0-8 home win over Meath. Despite the dropped home point Down travelled to Donegal with win number three coming on foot of a 0-13 to 0 -11 which showed that their bouncebackability is in fine working order. Tipperary followed up their Pairc Esler point with a home win over Meath which shows that their graph is heading in the right direction and their point in Newry was no flash in the pan.

Down lead the table on 7 points with Armagh second with 6. An opening league reversal at Navan to Meath was followed by a home win over Wesrtmeath and a good away win at Laois. That the Kildare challenge failed to materalise was not Armagh’s fault as they go in search of a four timer which will put them in control of the division with two matches remaining at home to Tipperary and away to Donegal.

As already mentioned it was always going to be the tie of the league for these near neighbours, wheather it be a promotion or relegation battle and it was going to attract a large attendance. With the stakes higher than expected that large attendace will be a bumper one. Both counties are a work in progress under their new management teams and have been progressing nicely using a number of new players to good effect in their campaigns to date.

Allthough it is only mid March I expect that there will be a real championship feel to Saturday night.  With the cauldrons of Ballybofey and Celtic Park to be visited in quest of the big prize later in the Summer the white hot atmosphere that is sure to abound at Pairc Esler will give the young players on either side an experience of what is to come and what they can expect. Given the expansive open football played by both teams and advocated by the management teams of either side the proverbial cracker could be about to explode in Saturday Night Fever fashion. The result which would keep everybody happy might not be a bad bet and would do no real harm to eithers chances. There will be little to choose between them after the long whistle with the performance rather than the actual result more in the minds of the respective management but far from the minds of the respective supporters who will not care how bad or good the game is as long as it goes in favour of their team. At the end of the day like, that is what derby matches are all about.