Armagh face a familiar foe this weekend, as they welcome rivals Cavan to the Athletic Grounds for the opening round of the National League. The early sparring session in the McKenna Cup yielded a unanimous victory for Kieran McGeeney’s men, but the outcome may not be as straightforward this time around.
From Martin Dunne’s haul of nine points in 2013, the pre-game malee the year after. Paul Countney’s appearance between the sticks in 2016 and last years dramatic semi final clash, Armagh and Cavan games always promise to entertain the crowd.
Both sides will hope to get off their league campaigns off to winning starts. Armagh were forced to wait until round four last season to secure their opening triumph, while Cavan, playing in the top division, picked up just one win across seven games.
The Breffni men have yo-yoed up and down between Division One and Two over the last number of years and their target will be to once again topple the second division and gain promotion straight back up to the top tier, having been relegated last year.
Of course there is quite bit of recent history between these two sides, having crossed paths three times throughout 2019. They shared the hectic Ulster Semi Final clash, when extra time couldn’t separate the sides, and Cian Mackey snatched victory from Armagh’s grasp to secure a draw with an unforgettable late cameo.
Cavan grabbed the all important win in the replay, 0-23 to 0-17, and although Armagh did gain some retribution in the opening round of this season’s McKenna Cup, a win on Saturday would be a much sweeter revenge for the Orchard County.
Cavan are significantly weaker than they were last summer, having lost Conor Moynagh, Killian Clarke, Dara McVeety, Conor Rehill and the recently retired Mackey, all of whom played a major part in guiding Mickey Graham’s side to the Ulster Final last year.
Armagh on the other hand, appear to be a team on the up, and there is a lot of anticipation surrounding this youthful side. Last season’s rookies Rian O’Neill and Jarlath Og Burns await big seasons while Conor Turbitt has burst on to the scene, hitting 2-6 across the two McKenna Cup games.
Kieran McGeeney will have a lot of selection headaches as he goes in search of his strongest 15, that he hopes can push on from last season, and finish closer to the top of the pile at the conclusion of the league.
Having squandered games from winning positions last season, particularly against Kildare and Clare at the beginning of the league, the Armagh faithful will hope that the Orchard County have learned from the harsh lessons of 2019.
This season, a promotion challenge is certainly on the cards and a win this weekend would provide the perfect platform to push on for the remainder of the campaign. Cavan have held the upper hand between the sides during Geezer’s reign, but Armagh should have enough to get their league run off to a promising start with a victory.