The turkey and ham dinners may not be settled in the stomachs just yet, but the Armagh charge begins once again this Sunday with the Orchard faithful forced to travel to Breffni Park for the commencement of the 2020 season.
Armagh followers have craved a return to the county scene after they witnessed their side narrowly lose out to Mayo way back in June and it won’t be long until hopes and expectations are high for the upcoming season.
Most of the focus will of course be on the 25th of January when they will also clash with Cavan, in the opening round of the National League, but this weekend the teams will compete in a light sparring session before the main event.
Cavan will most likely use the McKenna Cup as a hunting ground for new talent as they have been dealt a cruel blow in the winter months, with four of the team that started against Armagh in last season’s Ulster Championship semi final missing for one reason or another.
Their star forward Dara McVeety, who caused Armagh serious bother both days out last season, has took off travelling for the year but it’s at the back where Cavan now look most vulnerable, with three of their six starting defenders all taking some time off.
Regarded as one of their best for a number years now, Killian Clarke has recently left the panel while their attack minded sweeper Conor Moynagh and roaming wing half back Conor Rehill are also taking a year out.
Just as the Breffni Blues looked to be making progress under Mickey Graham by reaching the 2019 Ulster Final, they now seem to have taken a step backwards and could feel the full effects of their absentees throughout the season.
Armagh on the other hand can call on their entire 2019 panel, with the recently retired Charlie Vernon the only absentee. Armagh will still be on the prowl for new talent of course, and with a range of different players drafted into the panel, we are sure to see some new faces.
Callum Cumiskey was one of the stand-out players throughout the club season and he is likely to see some game time in the orange and white over the next few weeks and months as will Cullyhanna’s tight-marking corner back Sean Og Irwin.
Other new arrivals include Collegeland goalkeeper Niall Brady, Mark Toal from the Grange and Killeavy’s Caolan McConville, with fans looking forward to the new blood being pumped into the Armagh squad.
Returning from injury and hopeful of transferring his outstanding club to the inter-county scene will be Oisin O’Neill and Armagh followers will be delighted to welcome the Crossmaglen forward back into the fold and hope he can add to an already strong Armagh attack.
The squad recently took part in a training session in the now famous SBG gym, home to Conor McGregor, as part of their pre-season and although Armagh may not have to display many of their battling abilities this weekend, they will be focused on getting their season off to a winning start.