Orchard out to defeat Derry

We’ve waited a long time for this one. This clash should have taken place 168 days ago, way back in May.

Armagh travel to Celtic Park this weekend to take on a tricky Derry side that must not be underestimated.

Yes, they may have missed out of promotion, but they have put back to back wins together since football recommenced.

Some new additions have strengthened their team, none more so than their towering midfielder Conor Glass, just home from down under.

Derry have one of the best forwards in the province in Shane McGuigan while Brendan Rodgers and Chrissy McKaigue would walk into any team in Ulster and further afield.

Rory Gallagher is an astute manager who helped Donegal win the Sam Maguire along with Jim McGuinness back in 2012.

And yet, Armagh head into this one as firm favourites. Anything other than an Armagh victory would be a surprise.

When the National League kicks off in 2021, Kieran McGeeney’s men will feature two tiers above Sunday’s opponents.

Promotion to Division One was the ultimate goal and with that achieved, perhaps some of the pressure is off Armagh.

They displayed their battling qualities to force a win against Clare, away from home, driving over five unanswered points to secure topflight football.

Their inconsistency is a concern though. In the league, each good showing was followed by a dip in performance.

Great wins against Cavan, Kildare, Fermanagh and Clare have been split by below-par displays against Laois, Westmeath and Roscommon.

In fact, Armagh haven’t put two wins together in league or championship since 2018, when they beat Westmeath, Sligo and Clare in the qualifiers.

A lot has been made in recent years of Armagh’s failure to deliver in the Ulster Championship under Kieran McGeeney.

The Orchard County finally got that monkey off their backs with a win over Down in spectacular fashion.

Geezer has spent the last six years building a team that can compete at the top level and some of their displays would suggest he’s getting closer.

Armagh hold some of the most talented players in country, with the O’Neill brothers commanding figures in the orange and white.

Their link up play and ability to knock over long range points will be crucial if Armagh are to succeed on Sunday.

Rory Grugan holds the key to unlock massed defences while Stefan Campbell’s direct running style will punch holes.

Niall Grimley and Stephen Sheridan will do a lot of the donkey work in the centre of the park, with Grimley likely to pick up Conor Glass.

There remain question marks over the Armagh defence and this was highlighted recently in the two league clashes.

Brendan Donaghy has been a crucial miss in those two games and if fit will make an appearance at some stage this weekend.

Armagh have struggled against defensive minded teams and Rory Gallagher has plenty of experience of coming out on top against the Orchard County.

However, this Armagh side have matured. They no longer go for the all-out attacking approach and play into the defensive hands.

They can hold the ball, play with patience and of course have a range of score-getters throughout their team.

While Derry will not fear the visitors, Armagh should have too much firepower and that will see them over the line.