This coming Sunday we’ve the first of three away games in this year’s National Football League. Sunday’s one sees us head north to the ecclesiastical capital of the island to take on Armagh.
Throw-in at the Athletic Grounds is 3.30pm on Sunday, Fergal Kelly of Longford is the ref and the match is being shown live on TG4. If you don’t have a season ticket, then you’ll need to buy your tickets in advance and the word is that they’re selling out fast. The link for buying tickets is here.
As I noted ahead of our spring meeting last year, Armagh aren’t a county we’ve come up against all that much. We’ve only met a sum total of 17 times, with fifteen of these meetings having taken place in the National League.
They’ve the edge over us in those fifteen NFL meetings – they’ve won eight of them, we’ve won five and two matches were drawn – but only one of those games, last year’s encounter at Hyde Park, is in any way relevant in terms of the respective counties’ current playing panels.
We came from behind to win that one by two points and we won too the last time we played them up in the Cathedral City. That was in March 2012, with Aidan O’Shea and Jason Doherty the only players from then still involved for us now.
The most recent time they beat us in the League was the previous year when they had a goal to spare over us at MacHale Park. You have to go as far back as October 1994, though, for the most recent time they beat us at their gaff.
Last year’s loss to us at our Roscommon home-from-home went a long way towards denying the Orchard County a place in last year’s League final. They’d started the campaign, in true McGeeney fashion, like a veritable express train, racking up impressive wins over Dublin and Tyrone and then drawing with Monaghan before that two-point loss to us.
They then beat Kildare and drew with Kerry and were vying with us for the second final spot going into the last round of games. We beat the Lilies at Páirc Seán to make a decider we never wanted to be in while they lost to Donegal by a point.
Ulster was a disaster for them. Paired with Donegal in the quarters, Armagh crashed out, losing by 1-16 to 0-12. Then they got drawn against Sam Maguire holders Tyrone, who themselves had been ejected from the Ulster Championship by Derry, in Round 1 of the qualifiers and it looked like it could be curtains for them.
It wasn’t and instead they went on a run that took them all the way to Croke Park and a bit of Championship history they’d have preferred to avoid.
They beat Tyrone at the Athletic Grounds by 1-16 to 1-10 and, in last summer’s foreshortened qualifiers, earned their place in the All-Ireland quarter-finals by emphatically turning the tables on Donegal, beating them in that Round 2 qualifier tie by 3-17 to 0-16 at Clones.
Then came the fateful meeting with Galway at Croke Park, a rollicking encounter that finished level after extra-time and so had to be decided on penalties. In truth, Galway had been the better team on the day and so probably deserved to win the shootout but neither team deserved to be put in such an undignified position and no way did the Orchard lads deserve to see their Championship run ended in that fashion.
Fast forward to last weekend and Armagh got their 2023 Division One campaign off to a winning start. They made the short trip to Castleblaney last Saturday evening, from where they emerged with a two-point victory. Highlights of that game are here:
That’s all about the past, recent and not-so-recent, so let’s finish with some conjecture about the future, specifically Sunday’s meeting at the Athletic Grounds. It’s time to vote on how you think this one will go.
How will we do against Armagh?
- Win (55%, 368 Votes)
- Lose (29%, 197 Votes)
- Draw (15%, 103 Votes)
Total Voters: 668