Armagh now know their fate for the 2020 Dr McKenna Cup and will recognise the hard work that lies ahead for them if they are to recreate the heroics of last season, where they saw off St Mary’s, Antrim, Monaghan and Donegal to reach the Final of the Dr McKenna Cup. Of course, Armagh haven’t lifted the trophy since 1994.
And as fate would have it, the side that denied Armagh their first triumph in 24 years in last year’s finale will once again be in the opposite corner this year. Tyrone has made the competition their own under Mickey Harte and will hope to continue their domination as they look to secure their 8th title in 9 seasons.
Cavan are the third team to make up Section C and Armagh also have experience some recent history with the Breffni Men, going back to last year’s Ulster Semi Final defeat. The Orchard County will have their eyes sight on January 25th when they open the National League at home to Cavan, so we could witness some early shadow boxing in the Dr McKenna Cup.
Good club form has seen some new faces join the Armagh ranks with recent Club All-Stars Niall Brady, Sean Og Irwin and Callum Cumiskey just some of the welcomed additions. The Armagh follows will hope to see some of the new blood on show during the next few weeks and see the youngsters step up to the challenge of inter-county football.
While he may not be classed as a ‘newbie’, the Armagh faithful have yet to witness Oisin O’Neill fulfil his potential in the Orange and White and O’Neill, like the rest of the county, hopes the McKenna Cup can provide the chance for him, and the other youngsters within the group, to show what they can do before the league begins.
“It’s big (The Dr McKenna Cup), especially having missed all of last season myself, it’s a good opportunity to get your foot in through the door and make a claim and show the management team what your able to bring to the squad.”
Oisin O’Neill’s exploits at club level earned him the centre half forward position on the Club All-Star team and his form has certainly whet the appetite for the Armagh followers. His club crashed out of the Ulster Championship in the opening round but the Cross boys were straight back into training for Armagh’s upcoming season.
“We were back pretty sharply, some of us went back after the Clontibret game and then the rest came back the week after an it’s been all shoulders to the wheel, we have been working hard and I suppose now it’s about getting back on to the pitch and focusing on our style of play and what we’re looking to achieve on the pitch.”
As Armagh haven’t reached the final of the Dr McKenna Cup in so long it could be suggested that the team may have took a different approach last season compared to previous years and perhaps taken it a little more seriously, but O’Neill refutes that claim and insists that Armagh always go out with the intentions of winning every game.
“No I wouldn’t say that, in our group we always say that we want to win every game that we’re part of and the thing about the McKenna Cup is, if you get through to the semi final or final, you’re guaranteed an extra two games which is always better as players, we’d rather play games than have to do extra training.”
While Armagh will be competitive in the Dr McKenna Cup, it’s the league that they will be building towards and the pre-season competition offers the perfect platform to prepare for what’s ahead, “It’s brilliant (preparation for the league), it stood to us well last year, everyone was sharp going into the league and hopefully it’ll be the same this year.”