Hopes for 2021 – Armagh Hurling

It was a tough year and another hard luck story for the Armagh hurlers in 2020, but there was some cause for optimism throughout the year.

They performed brilliantly throughout the league campaign, reaching the Division 3A league final off the back of a five-game unbeaten streak.

Three out of the five ended in victory and Armagh would have been delighted with how some of those games played out.

They won two of their three home games, defeating Monaghan and Louth while gaining a last day draw against rivals Tyrone.

On the road, they beat the eventual winners in the opening round of the campaign, Donegal, and left Longford with a share of the spoils.

They gathered serious momentum from the win over the Tir Chonaill men and that helped gather confidence for the remainder of the league.

Monaghan proved to have little to offer but the remaining three games were exciting, nail-biting encounters.

Like they did the year before, Armagh reached the Division 3A league final, but once again just game up short.

Donegal were the opposition in the decider and their early goal was enough to lead them to victory and promotion.

The sides played out a big scoring encounter, but the green flag was the difference in the end, Donegal 1-18 Armagh 0-19.

While Armagh didn’t secure their first goal of the season, promotion, they did put in some good displays throughout the campaign.

They hoped to carry this momentum into the Nicky Rackard Cup, but Covid-19 was well on its way to dismantling the GAA fixtures list.

The orange and white wouldn’t hit the field again until Saturday the 24th of October, when their championship campaign began.

They held home advantage in the opening round against Leitrim, who despite some moments of good play, were well behind Armagh’s quality.

Shaun Toal rattled the net after being introduced to the fray and Armagh made it through to the next round, winning 1-21 to 0-12.

Next up, they faced a strong and familiar Donegal side, with the winner continuing their Nicky Rackard Cup journey and the losers knowing their 2020 season was over.

Armagh’s season unfortunately ended where it had all started ten months previous, an away trip to the hills of Donegal.

The Orchard County headed into the game full of confidence, knowing they had beaten their opponents already this year, and were extremely close to doing likewise in the league final.

Donegal raced out of the traps early in the second half and hit the net three times after the break to secure a 3-13 to 1-8 win.

While it was a disappointing end to a promising season, the hurlers will once again set their stall out again in 2021.

Promotion is well within their grasps while their sights will turn towards getting their hands on that Nicky Rackard Cup.

Only Donegal, who triumphed in both the league and championship, defeated Padraig O’Connor’s side, detailing how close Armagh are to making the breakthrough.