Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

No Garden Party

All Ireland Qualifier Round 1B – Armagh v Wicklow saturday 27th June at 2.30pm in Athletic Grounds, Armagh

In the first round Qualifiers competition Wicklow visit the Athletic Grounds, to play Armagh, 2-30pm on Saturday June 27th in a match that will certainly be no garden party for the hosts against their Fourth Division opponents. While Armagh were getting humiliated on home soil by Donegal 2-11 to 0-8 Wicklow stayed with a well fancied Meath side to the final whistle and despite finishing with 13 players were not disgraced in a 2-19 to 3-12 defeat.

Once the opening score went in at the Athletic Grounds, a McBrearty goal, Armagh performed in the first half like a rabbit caught in the glare of headlights, they froze. Any pre-match game plan, any tactics, after months of preparation somehow inexplicably got totally lost in a no show of huge proportions that even at this stage both players and management are at a loss to provide a reasonable explanation for their collapse. Armagh are definitely better than their first half against an excellent Donegal. Wicklow, on Saturday, will provide them with the opportunity to get their act together and put on a performance that will make them a feared competitor in the qualifiers.

As the saying goes “there is no use crying over spilt milk” and there has been a lot of crying (even from myself) but the beauty of sport is that you can get the opportunity to right the wrong. Saturday is a new chapter, a new dawning and gives the faithful who will file through the gates on Saturday afternoon to see their players deliver the goods in the manner they know they can and have come to expect.

Wicklow, after scoring 3-12, will be hoping to catch a wounded Armagh on the hop. Under former Dub Johnny Magee (who now faces Kieran McGeeney in a managers role having clashed on the field wearing the respective number 6’s for their counties) Wicklow are showing progress Magee has added, strength, physicality and fitness plus the ability to maintain possession with his team still in the infancy of their development under his stewardship. Magee has managed his new outfit without the household names of Glynn, Stafford, Power, Mernagh, Furlong and when the Garden County come calling on Saturday it is the likes of Paul Cronin, Conor McGraynor, Darren Hayden, Chester Kelly, Paddy Dalton, Daniel Woods who will be cheered on by the visiting support who see the defeat by Meath as progress and an early show of their teams  rapid development and progression in a relatively short space of time.

So one might expect it to be a lot closer encounter on Saturday, than the 2013 qualifier visit to the Cathedral City, when 2 early Jamie Clarke goals, sent Armagh on their way to a 2-21 to 0-2 victory. The make-up of the Armagh team should not show too many changes from the Donegal starting 15 giving players the opportunity to find the rhythm and cohesion that was absent the last day out which was just one of those days. Armagh will progress to the second round of the qualifiers with a win in a game that could be more a test of their mental resolve above anything else. The bottom line on Saturday is victory, the manner of how it is achieved can be debated and analyzed at a later date.