Tough League campaign awaits

January 31, 2012

Armagh face a very tough Division One League campaign which commences on Sunday next with the visit of Cork to the Morgan Fuel Athletic Grounds at 2-30pm followed by a Saturday night 7pm visit to Tralee the following week to take on another Munster side Kerry. The opening two matches are followed by games against Mayo (Home), Dublin (Away), Laois (Away), Down (Home) finishing the campaign with an away trip to Donegal.

Manager Paddy O’Rourke has a new second in command in Paul Grimley for 2012 and are already resigned to beginning the campaign without the services of the Crossmaglen Rangers players, the absent Stevie McDonnell and the emigrated Kieran Toner. The year began with a McKenna Cup defeat to fellow league opponents Down but wins over St Mary’s and Monaghan with a raft of new players getting playing time under their belts the most important issue during the course of those three matches.

At the time of going to press Armagh have not announced their panel of players for the League campaign but it has all the hall marks of being an experimental outfit as the team is in transition. The League campaign will be all geared at getting the right blend between the tried and trusted and the new before what counts, the June 10 championship meeting with Tyrone at the Morgan Fuel Athletic Grounds. Ironically championship rivals Tyrone have benefited from two outings at the Armagh venue on their way to capturing the first silver wear of the year, the McKenna Cup.

Cork, keen to make amends for a very disappointing 2011 have picked up their first trophy of the year the McGrath Cup with a 0-13 to 0-6 win over Tipperary. The Rebels double champions in 2010 under manager Conor Counihan who will be hoping to get back to those dizzy heights once more has injury concerns with Paddy Kelly and Colm O’Neill who picked up hamstring injuries.

Armagh, on home soil, are always difficult to defeat and are always a danger when written off. As previously stated it is performances not results that the Orchard County should be judged on over the course of this League campaign. A 50% win rate in the League should lead to another year in the top flight and it can be achievable in the three home games with anything picked up on the road viewed as a huge bonus.

With places on the championship squad up for grabs and a fine sprinkling of new talent seeking those places Armagh may yet prove those who think that they are relegation certainties wrong. What better way to start the campaign than with a win over Cork who are not as good on their travels as other teams in the division.