A look at Armagh

Photo: RTÉ

We’re done with the Dubs, now it’s time to take aim at early pace-setters Armagh. Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon is our home-away-from-home on Sunday for our NFL Division One Round 4 clash with the Orchard County (throw-in 2pm). The match isn’t being shown live on TV but Midwest will have live radio commentary on it. Meath’s David Coldrick is the ref.

Armagh are a county we’ve only met the odd time. In fact, the first time our paths ever crossed was in the All-Ireland semi-final of 1950, as we were closing in on the first of two Sam Maguire wins in succession.

In total, we’ve only met 16 times. Armagh have the edge on us, as we’ve won six and they’ve won eight, with two encounters drawn.

The most recent time we met them was, of course, in the Championship when we narrowly got by them in a Round 3 qualifier tie at McHale Park in late June 2019. We looked to have the match in the bag but they came roaring back into it and we were bloody lucky to escape with a single point win.

Prior to that nerve-shredding encounter, the most recent clash – and the last League meeting – with them was a full decade ago, back in February 2012, where we had a comfortable six-point win over them at the Athletic Grounds. 2011 was the most recent time we played them at home in the League (they won that one by a goal), while they also came out on top in the most recent match between us played on neutral turf – that was the 2005 semi-final, a few years before this blog’s inception, though I recall I was at that match in Croke Park.

We haven’t, of course, come across them in the League in recent years because they spent much of the last decade wandering in the wilderness of Divisions Two and Three. Their elevation to the top tier was a sliding mirrors moment for us as we dropped down while they went up.

It was up to a Covid-shortened League campaign for them last year. Corralled along with Donegal, Tyrone and Monaghan into Division One North, Armagh didn’t get the full Division One experience last year and not just because the campaign was played in the summer.

In what was a kill-or-be-killed three-match mini-league, Armagh finished third and so got pitched into a relegation avoider against Roscommon. They were a tad unfortunate to find themselves in such a predicament, as they’d beaten Monaghan, been beaten by Tyrone and drawn with Donegal.

Their luck was in for the relegation play-off, though, as they were awarded home advantage and they beat Roscommon decisively to preserve their top tier status.

Antrim were also seen off in emphatic fashion in the Ulster Championship quarter-final in early July, with Armagh banging in four goals that day in Clones. Two weeks later, however, they were the ones conceding four majors, as Monaghan just got the better of them in the Marshes, that provincial semi-final ending 4-17 to 2-21.

Ciaran McGeeney’s side would, along with Kildare (a county Geezer used to manage), have been many people’s favourites for demotion this spring. However, relegation isn’t as much of a worry for them now, as, like us, they’ve five points on the board after three rounds of matches.

Also like us, they’ve a victory over Dublin at Croke Park under their belts. It was a very similar win to ours too, with the Dubs stunned by the concession of two first half goals as Armagh ran out – as we did against them too – winners by five points.

The Orchard County backed that up the following weekend with an impressive 2-14 to 0-14 win over Tyrone at a packed Athletic Grounds. The only story that emanated from that match was the late flurry of red cards but that was a pity because it was a cracking contest and Armagh’s six-point win represented a serious statement of intent on their part.

A second game on home turf followed last weekend, as Armagh welcomed their Ulster conquerors from last year, Monaghan, to the Cathedral city. This was a far tougher contest for the Orchard lads, with Monaghan going in at the break four in front and stretching that lead to five early in the second half. Conor McManus’s dismissal on a straight red, however, turned the tide and in the end it took a late Jack McCarron free for the Farneymen to deny Armagh a third victory on the bounce, the match finishing level on a scoreline of 1-7 to 0-10.

Still, they’ll rock up at Dr Hyde Park on Sunday feeling good about themselves, as they’re still unbeaten after three rounds of Division One football. Then, of course, so are we. One of those unbeaten records may fall in Roscommon on Sunday or else we could end up playing out what would be a third-ever draw in this fixture.

Which is it to be? I’ll leave that one with you to ponder.

How will we go against Armagh?

  • Win (64%, 684 Votes)
  • Lose (22%, 240 Votes)
  • Draw (13%, 143 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,067

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43 thoughts on “A look at Armagh

  1. This should be a great challenge against an in form Armagh outfit who seem to be ahead of most teams fitness wise … Armagh are playing a nice style of football with big physical players who can play ball and unlike some of the Northern teams , they aren’t afraid to use the always effective quick ball into their forwards..
    We have great competition for places and I feel our subs will be to make a big impact in order to get a result… Starting team will be interesting, especially in defence. Positions don’t mean much in defence anymore so JH could pick man markers….Interesting times ahead and hopefully our bucks will improve again on the last game ..
    For what it’s worth.. I’d start Mattie and Jordan midfield again

  2. Can’t believe that this game will not be shown on tv this weekend, it’s going to be a fascinating game considering the two teams involved. I know the dublin Kildare game will be a must watch considering the ramifications for all involved but with so many top games on the football seems to be very sparsely covered. Anyway I’ll be all ears on Sunday

  3. I still remember that nerve-jangling game versus Armagh in the Qualifiers in 2019. We were very lucky to come away with a win there.
    It was then that Armagh announced themselves to my consciousness and ever since I remember the names of Rian O Neill and Jarly Og Burns. There were at least two other tormentors for Mayo on the Armagh side that day. I remember them as direct and very tenacious, a really good team.

  4. Is our development of McHale Park much the same as what was done for Hyde Park….or are we more Croker standard?

  5. It would be great to secure div 1 status on Sunday. Maybe then Byrne may get a run in goal. It would be good to have gained a bit of experience in a non must win game before he’s called upon for a must win game. Delighted with the win last Sunday but not surprised by it. It’s very noticeable that Horan is building an athletic panel and hopefully it will pay off. Can’t believe the armagh game is not on tv. With so many options it should be available.

  6. Saturday 26 February – Down v Roscommon (Division Two football) 17:00 GMT

    BBC only seem to be showing Saturday games.

  7. Something I hadn’t noticed before. On the Indo Gaelic Games section online, they have tabs for: Gaelic football, Hurling, Dublin GAA…

  8. that’s the indo for you! Not a decent GAA journalist to be found in that office!
    Just loudmouths playing to the gallery and furthering their agendas

  9. That’s not true, Tubberman! Colm Keys, Conor McKeon – who have both been on the podcast with us on recent weeks – are decent GAA journalists, as are the likes of Vincent Hogan, Donnchadh Boyle, Frank Roche and others. They have the other sort too, of course, and a very well developed Mayo GAA clickbait operation but it’s simply not fair or accurate to tar them all with the one brush.

  10. I’ll give you Colm Keys alright, he’s fair and knowledgeable. I don’t know McKeon, must be a relatively recent addition since I stopped reading it.

  11. We had him on the podcast last week, Tubberman, ahead of the Dublin game and he was very good on it. There’s nothing wrong with his writing either.

    Colm Keys certainly has the height for full-forward, Jrb!

  12. I have a ticket to spare for the Armagh game if anyone is interested. Had bought, can’t go now.

  13. I don’t know if any of you listened to OTB segment with Anthony Moyles…..seemed very imbalanced……Mayo were poor, no real analysis at all, and then spent ages saying how improved/great Dublin were. Not sure does he really love the Dubs or just hate us (or both)! Just thought he could have commented a bit more objectively, there were 2 teams playing.

  14. Armagh were absolutely robbed last weekend against Monaghan when the ball clearly crossed the line from the penalty kick and the goal wasn’t awarded.

    You’d have to ask yourself how did both a linesman and an umpire miss it.

    With the game ending in a draw the result had implications at both ends of the table.


  15. No question about it from those angles…if Monaghan survive by virtue of that point at someone else’s expense…things could get interesting.

  16. Correct High or Low,It’s Willie Joe, said , not one of Mayo new players impressed. Speaks a lot of Waffle.

  17. @Spotlight, the current Hyde park pitch is a sand based pitch with rolled out playing turf the same way and sourced turf used in Croke Park. The new MacHale park pitch is traditional method of growing a playing field from seed and it takes longer that way. All pitches have proper drainage in place to prevent games from getting called off at this time of year.

  18. Yes I heard that Moyles piece on OTB and he is a clown. He’s hard to listen to at the best of times, and then on top of that he’s always been negative about Mayo.
    Also one of the most overrated players I’ve ever seen. Wouldnt get a look in if he was on the Mayo panel the last 10 years.

  19. Rian O’Neill is, in my opinion, Armagh’s trump card although they have other very useful plyers as well,. As I recall Rian has a very useful brother, although I think he is not a regular starter at present. Jarly Óg Burns is another I recall from that qualifier in MacHale Park. Whoever is tasked with marking O’Neill will have their metal well tested. A job for O’Hora?? or Óisín??

  20. If, as mayomagic says, MacHale Park’s new surface is dependent on growth from grass seed rather than laid turf I think it will need a very good spring for growth to have it ready for the Galway championship game in April. And we do not get that many Springs which are good for growth, although my own lawn is doing better than it should at this time of year.

  21. I heard Moyles and I wondered if he actually watched the game at all. Sure look, let them continue with the narrative that both our goals were lucky, that Diarmuid scuffed the shot that was the pass to Orme for the second goal, and that we had no clear plan that lead to both goals. We should have scored more goals, but as long as they continue with these narratives, teams can take us for granted. Long may it continue, and long may Dessie’s reign as manager continue while some of Dublin’s better players walk away from the squad because they don’t want to play for him. If that were Mayo players refusing to stay involved in such numbers, they’d be on about egos or the likes.

  22. Swallow Swoops Rian is a fantastic player but he far from tormented us in 2019.
    Leeroy went back on him and put serious manners on him that day if memory serves. Stefan Campbell gave Paddy a tough day on that occasion and Mikey Murray had a real baptism of fire starting midfield. All in all we were very lucky to come out of Mchale park with the win.

    This Sunday should be very interesting, I think we can get at their kick out. Blaine Hughes seemed to scoff a few of them (judging by the Sunday game highlights) against Monaghan and can remember him making a few mistakes in the past. Their physicality was very evident in the Dublin and Tyrone games and they have forwards that can score. Turbitt, Grugan, O’Neill etc. Oisin O’neill (Rians brother) is back around the middle too.
    The conditions defo could play a huge factor also.
    Does anyone know the status of Durcan/Doherty/O’Hora for this weekend? It was great seeing David Mcbrien on the 26 last Saturday. Has the potential to be a top class player for us.

  23. Don’t really see that much wrong with what moyles said.

    The two goals were quite fortunate. Whether diarmuid meant the pass or not, it was real eye of the needle stuff. Ormes finish was quite fortuitous too.

    Outside the goals we didn’t create a huge amount of chances, and looked pretty toothless up front

    Defensively we were good, which moyles acknowledged but we didn’t transition from defense to attack with any real urgency.

    So what did we actually learn here? Mattie, oisin, diarmuid and Robbie are top players. Jordan Flynn is developing well.

    The jury is still out on whether towey, Orme, Carney and brickenden will be able to make impact come championship, with Orme looking most likely.

    Horan took the complete sting out of the game when he named his team. The story from that point on was always going to be about Dublin, unless we took them apart. And in fairness Dublin were better than against Kerry.

    Honestly, I can’t remember having such a routine and uneventful win against a division 1 or 2 team when there was something/anything on the line in years. Possibly the most out and out boring game we’ve been involved in over a decade

  24. Good post there Frost.

    Still, I’d have to add the first ball in from Jordan, and the point that Orme got as real goal chances.

    We controlled it in the second half and it was a bit boring – Dublin like. We did a Dublin on them. We did that against Monaghan too after the second goal. Maybe that’s what Horan is doing – introducing controlled i.e. boring play, picking off points every so often.

    Note though, that apart from Robbie’s bullets all our scores were from play. That’s a credit to Dublin too, in that they didn’t foul inside scoring zones.

  25. Clubman51, I take your point : ) Lee needed to mind him.

    I think Grugan might have been one of the other lively players for them that day but I’m not sure.

  26. Lee has put manners on many’s the man Swallow swoops. O’Neill was a young gun back then, his physical development has improved since. He came back on after going off injured last weekend so would assume he will be fine for Sunday and will certainly take watching. A O’Hora/Keegan will have their work cut out for sure.

    Grugan is a fine player and Campbell caused us awful problems in Castlebar before.
    If we win Sunday we will prob looking at winning the league out? Or what would be a “successful” league campaign for us ?

  27. I would respect Armagh but not fear them. They have started so well that they is probably pressure on them to perform. Monaghan should have put them away in the first half but Armagh are extremely good at drawing frees and getting into guys’ faces. Discipline will be needed from us – no red cards needed. I think if we can even get a point out of this it would be a good result. I think if we make ourselves safe in Div 1 then our management team can continue building from within. I always think that it would be great if you could count on us to go out and play well in every game and do enough to win or draw but then that could get boring too.

  28. Whatever about last time out, I reckon young Rian has real potential to torment us this weekend! I’m a bit nervous about this one, but then I was still nervous with 74 minutes on the clock last Saturday in a game we never looked like losing, so I wouldn’t really heed me.

    I can’t say I was bored, though. I thought it was quite enjoyable, though it did feel routine. Who’d have thought?

    Clubman51, a league win would lovely, but I’d settle for a top 4 finish and no more injuries. I think being relatively safe at this point in the campaign already constitutes a success. (Unless something goes badly wrong. I refer you to the first paragraph above!)

  29. Armagh have certainly improved but haven’t yet earned the right to be serious contenders. We should be looking to put them in their place. Let’s see how they react when they’re prevented from playing their game and when things go against them.

  30. @catcol

    I’d agree, the plan seems to be to keep the defense shape, soak up pressure and counter attack from the start. Then introduce subs, look to pressure further up the pitch and see out games with momentum.

    In fairness to management I think this focus on defensive shape began last year.

    In fairness to moyles, I think you either need to completely focused on mayo or a very astute analyst to pick up on these things, and while I am defending him here, I would not say he’s a top analyst by any stretch.

    What really stuck me was when he said we’re looking for one or two players come championship, whereas I looked at that team and thought it looked closer to our likely 2024 lineup.

    The big thing for us this year is our squad depth. IMO where Tyrone had the edge over us last year was squad depth and a more refined counterattack

    I honestly think our squad depth will see us nab a national trophy this year

    Although I’m actually less confident than I was before the Dublin game. JH showed he’s got a plan for the league and he’s going to stick with it irrespective of the opposition. I’m more apprehensive than I was about this Armagh game as a result.

  31. Another point FrostT, made by Eamonn Fitzmaurice after the Monaghan game was that we were focusing on our ‘non-dominant’ side’ citing Conor O’Shea, Diarmuid, Fionn I think, all kicking points with weaker foot.

  32. Sunday should be a game we can relax and enjoy ourselves a bit, both teams play attacking football and are safe from relegation so shackles will be off and can expect a lively high scoring encounter.

    Rian o neill limped off last week so will hardly play which is a pity as he is a fantastic player to watch
    Great test for fullback line tho as armagh very direct, lots of long kickpasses coming in

    Should be a cracker of a game though, one to be enjoyed not endured

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