Armagh hurlers have been through many battles throughout this year and free taker Dean Gaffney expects it to be no different when they meet Sligo in the Nicky Rackard Cup final on Saturday afternoon. Gaffney understands the quality that his side will face come 4pm and knows his side can’t let complacency slip into their minds.
“We’re going well in training no has taken their foot off the gas, we’re not sitting back thinking we’ll have it handy. Sligo drew with Mayo who would have been hot favourites at the start so we’re not underestimating Sligo at all. From what I’ve heard they try to switch their team around and they’re a very hard team to play against”.
Throughout the competition Armagh have had to earn every point that has come their way, coming from behind to get over Monaghan on the first day out while also scoring in the last minute against Warwickshire in round 2 to claim a share of the spoils. They had 10 points to spare against Longford but again showed their battling spirit to knockout Tyrone in their gripping semi final clash.
Gaffney has been huge in guiding this side to Croke Park with his accurate point taking both from open play and free the dead ball. Against the Red Hands Gaffney posted 10 points of his sides overall tally of 2-19 while also racking up an impressive 0-16 in his sides draw away to Warwickshire.
Sligo will head into the contest as underdogs as they go in search of back to back promotions having won the Lory Meagher trophy last season, their draw against Mayo undeniably their stand out result of the campaign but Gaffney insists that Armagh can only focus on their own performance,
“As a team we’re mostly focused on ourselves, management might of had a looked at Sligo but as a team we’re just focusing on our own game plan and trying to make sure we perform on the day.”
Croke Park is the destination for all the hurling fans in Armagh come Saturday and understandably this brings its own pressure. Armagh have captured the Nicky Rackard Cup on two occasions previous, in 2010 and 2012 but the Middletown man is keen not to let the big day get to his side while also trying to enjoy it as well,
“No final is ever easy and we know it comes down to the fine margins, we’ve had good experience through our recent games and we’ve been in tight situations so hopefully that will get us by on the day. Of course it’s a big occasion, it’s a big day out, it’s what you train for but we’re going to go out with the mentality that it’s just another game, 70 minutes and go out and play it. Of course we’ll take it all in at the same time but we’ll just approach it as another game”.
Having lost the Division 3A final to Roscommon earlier in the year Armagh have bounced back nicely and now have a real opportunity to capture some silverware to see out the season. As in all their games this season this final could once again become a game of inches, with the Armagh followers looking to Gaffney to see the Orchard County over the line.