Tough McKenna Cup ahead for Armagh
The Bank of Ireland Dr. McKenna Cup will commence on Sunday 3rd of January with Armagh facing a tough ask to get their name on a trophy they last held in 1990 as they are in Section C along with Cavan (their League and championship opponents), Monaghan (Current Ulster champions) and Ulster University.
Holders Tyrone who are bidding for 5 in-a-row in this competition face Derry, Antrim and Queen’s in Section A with St Mary’s, Donegal, Fermanagh and Down making up Section B.
The McKenna Cup final will be played a week before the opening round of the National Football Leagues so for all teams this could be a pretty intense competition as new panellists try to lay down a marker for inclusion in firstly the panel for the League and then the Championship.
Armagh made a dismal end to their 2015 campaign with a 0-17 to 4-10 loss to Louth in the semi-final of the O’Fiaich Cup at Crossmaglen. After Andrew Murnin opened the scoring Louth hit back with 1-1, the major coming from Conor Grimes and the Wee County went in at the break 1-6 to 0-8 in front. In the second half it was Louth who emerged from the fog to grab glory with substitute Jim McEneaney from Geraldine’s making the biggest impression as he helped himself to 2-4 with another sub Gerard McSorley netting the other goal. Worrying from an Armagh point of view is that they commenced the match with 13 players who had featured in the 2015 Championship campaign and yet lost out to a team who were relegated as Armagh gained promotion from the same division. Armagh substitute Joe Feeney caught the eye with the former Madden man scoring 2 points when introduced. On the plus side for Armagh is the fact that they scored 17 points through 11 different players and also missed two great goal opportunities.
For the record the teams and scorers were-
Armagh – M McNeice; S Heffron (0-1), C Vernon, M Murray; E McVerry (0-2), C O’Hanlon, A Forker; A Findon, S Sheridan; R Grugan (0-3f), M McKenna (0-3), O MacIomhair; S Campbell (0-1), A Murnin (0-1), E Rafferty (0-1). Subs: J Feeney (0-2) for O MacIomhair, G McParland (0-1) for S Campbell, N Grimley (0-1) for S Sheridan, P Burns for E McVerry, N McConville (0-1) for M McKenna.
Louth – N Gallagher; P Rath, P Reilly, K Murphy; E Lafferty, D McMahon, A Reid; T Durnin, D O’Connell; M Rafferty, J Stewart, D Byrne (0-2); C Judge (0-1), C Grimes (1-3, 0-2f), D Maguire. Subs: J McEneaney (2-4, 0-2f) for E Lafferty, G McSorley (1-0) for C Judge, R Holdcroft for D O’Connell.
McKenna Cup Fixtures
Sunday 3rd January: Round 1
Derry v Antrim @ Owenbeg
Tyrone v Queen’s @ Healy Park
Donegal v Down @ Pairc MacCumhaill
Fermanagh v St Mary’s @ Brewster Park
Armagh v Cavan @ Crossmaglen
Monaghan v Ulster University @ Clones
Wednesday 6th January: Round 2
Antrim v Queen’s @QUB Arena
Saturday 9th January: Round 2
Cavan v Ulster University @ Kingspan Breffni Park
Sunday 10th January: Round 2
Derry v Tyrone @ Owenbeg
Donegal v St Mary’s @ Letterkenny
Down v Fermanagh @ Pairc Esler
Monaghan v Armagh @ Clones
Wednesday 13th January: Round 3
Derry v Queen’s @ Owenbeg
Tyrone v Antrim @ Healy Park
Down v St Mary’s @ Pairc Esler
Fermanagh v Donegal @ Brewster Park
Cavan v Monaghan @ Kingspan Breffni Park
Armagh v Ulster University @ Athletic Grounds
Sunday 17th January: Semi Finals
Section B Winner v Section A Winner
Best Runner-Up v Section C Winner
Saturday 23rd January: Final