Ricey still the rival

From rivals on the field, to rivals on the line, Kieran McGeeney and Ryan McMenamin renew a rivalry this weekend that extends beyond their managerial careers.

The pair first crossed paths in the opening round of the 2002 Ulster Championship and 18 years on, they will lock horns once again.

While McMenamin may be the only man that hails from the Red Hand County making his way to Brewster Park on Sunday, it’s enough to ignite memories of days gone by.

‘Ricey’ will be draped head to toe in green and white this weekend, as the new Fermanagh boss looks to get one over Kieran McGeeney’s Armagh.

The three time All-Ireland winner is of course the classic pantomime villain, who opposition’s supporters love to hate, and he will soak up the hostile atmosphere on Sunday.

There’s no love lost between McMenamin and the Armagh faithful and giving his history with the orange and white, a huge battle is expected for the Armagh team.

As Steven McDonnell alluded to in our Preview Podcast on Thursday, Fermanagh had no love for Armagh before adding in the McMenamin effect.

“The Geezer, McMenamin scenario, where we’ve seen often enough in the past, it will add spice (to the game), there’s no doubt about it”’

“When it comes to Ryan McMenamin, pitting himself against Armagh, he always wants to win those battles and he wouldn’t have that much love for Armagh I wouldn’t expect, so he will be trying to rile his team up as much as possible.”

“Fermanagh as a county wouldn’t have much love for Armagh, so that’s also motivation for Armagh going into this game. Knowing Fermanagh won’t hold back in their quest to beat Armagh can be used as a motivating factor for the Armagh team.”

In games between these two in recent years, Fermanagh have brought a defensive minded approach that in all truth has been successful against the Orchard County.

Memories of Fermanagh’s 2018 ambush in the first round of the Ulster Championship will come gushing back on Sunday. Having beaten the Erne County in that seasons Division Three League Final, Armagh were expected to do the same come championship.

That’s not quite out the game played out, and after 70 minutes of so-called ‘action’, Armagh had only contributed a total of seven points, with Fermanagh seeing out a five point victory.

McMenamin was part of the management that day. And victory would have tasted sweet for the former corner back, but to earn a win over Armagh as manager would be sweetest of all.

This weekend a return to possession based, defensive football will be on the cards, as Fermanagh know they can’t leave their defenders ‘one-on-one’ with the Armagh attackers.

McDonnell believes it will be a game of patience, “They are going to get frustrated with how Fermanagh set up, I can’t see Fermanagh setting up any differently, because to an extent it has worked for them.”

“For me, it’s definitely got to be a patient game for Armagh, but they’ve got to get scores early on to try and invite Fermanagh out. Under Rory Gallagher they didn’t tend to switch their ways but maybe under Ryan McMenamin they might just go a wee bit more attack minded”.

In last year’s league encounter, Armagh displayed a clam and measured game plan in Crossmaglen, to come away with a six point win and similar tactics will be expected this weekend.

Kieran McGeeney’s men displayed a heroic, battling display around centre field against Kildare in round three, lining the middle of the park with big men such as Niall Grimley, the O’Neill brothers, Jarly Og Burns and Stephen Sheridan.

That may be the plan this weekend once again as Armagh look to curb the influence of two of Fermanagh’s best players, Eoin Donnelly and Ryan Jones.

Up front, Conall Jones is the Erne men’s top scorer this season, with 19 points in the opening four games, the majority coming from frees.

This game is crucial to both counties fulfilling their league targets. If Armagh can claim victory, promotion to the top tier is certainly within their grasps.

However should they come away empty handed, they could very easily be pulled into a relegation battle. Fermanagh sit joint bottle of the league with two points, so a win is essential if McMenamin wants his side to avoid the drop.

It could come down to who wants it more, and following last week’s below-par second half performance, Armagh will be out to prove the doubters wrong once again.