Be early as number crowd expected
BOI Dr McKenna Cup
It’s the first Wednesday night following New Year’s Day but that will not stop thousands of Armagh and Tyrone football supporters descending on the Athletic Grounds as the counties meet in what will be the deciding Section C group match in the Bank of Ireland sponsored Dr McKenna Cup.
Both sides have won their opening games against Cavan so the winner on Wednesday night will progress to the semi-finals where they will meet the winner of Section B who will be either Antrim or Down who meet each other on the same night in Newry.
Particularly in the first half an experimental Armagh were very impressive at Kingspan, Breffni Park as they recorded a 2-17 to 1-13 victory. Clann Eireann starlet Conor Turbit marked his debut in spectacular fashion with a 2-2 contribution to the scoreboard. Kieran McGeeney fielded a re-jigged defence and a new attack and a different midfield pairing and oversaw a 40 minute spell in which his team scored 2-16 without recording a single wide.
1-14 to 1-7 ahead at the short whistle the second Turbit goal just after the restart and 2 more points gave Armagh a 12 points cushion before the game deteriorated into a scrappy niggly affair as the home side, who had been very passive, became aggressive without any malice once the game had gone beyond them.
There is no reason to see except for injuries that the Armagh management will change their starting 15 against Tyrone as everything worked smoothly for the opening game of the season. Debuts for Turbit and Jason Duffy, 8 different players on the scoresheet, Jarly Og Burns, James Morgan, Stephen Sheridan, Cian McConville given game time off the bench, Rian O’Neill excelling at 11 with his brother Oisin alongside him, the Cavan goal an early penalty as Armagh’s defensive formation coped well with the Cavan attack.
Tyrone led Cavan 8-6 at half-time but an early second half goal at Healy Park helped Tyrone to a 1-16 to 0-13 win. With Tyrone supporters still reeling following the news that All Star full-forward Cathal McShane is understood to be considering taking up a professional career in Australian Rules football and if McShane does leave, it would be a huge blow to Mickey Harte’s Tyrone.
Against Cavan, Harte handed debuts to Conor Quinn, Conall Grimes Conn Kilpatrick and Daniel Kerr. Midfielder Kilpatrick marked his debut by picking up the Man of the Match award. Having beaten Armagh in last year’s McKenna Cup final Tyrone will be keen to turn over their arch rivals as they try to extend their stranglehold on this competition.
Referee Barry Cassidy will be throwing in the ball at 8 pm on Wednesday night at the Athletic Grounds. You can’t say that you have not been warned, be early as we will be in for a rip roaring contest that will warm any January night. The result although important might play second best to a performance the two together would have the winner in bonus territory as the National League start fast approaches