National Hurling League – Round One
Armagh vs Longford
Sunday 16th May – Athletic Grounds – 1pm
The Hurlers are the only Armagh team that aren’t heading into a derby tie in their opener of the national league.
The Camogs face Down, the footballers take on Monaghan while the Ladies will meet Tyrone on the first day of the LGFA season.
The Ulster derbies will come later on for Padraig O’Connor’s side, with games against Monaghan and Tyrone coming up at the end of the league.
Longford are the visiting the Athletic Grounds this weekend as division three of the National Hurling League gets under way.
Two years running Armagh have been denied promotion on the final day of the campaign and will want to push on one step further in 2021.
To do so, the Orchard County will need to get off to a good start against their Leinster opponents and home advantage may help do that.
It’s a changed outfit from last year as some big names and guaranteed starters will not be involved with the squad.
Gaffney brothers Ryan and Dean stepped aside at the end of last year while Patrick Quinn is also taking a year out.
Padraig O’Connor is tasked with replacing the outgoing players and has added Jim Short and Peter McKearney to the starting line-up.
Captain Nathan Curry misses out on a place in the first 15 and the Middletown man could be a big miss if he has no part to play.
His brother Odhran, clubmate Tiarnan Nevin and Derrynoose star Aaron Fox are the men tasked with defending Simon Doherty’s goal.
Paddy McBride forms a strong midfield partnership with the returning McKearney while Eoin McGuinness and Danny Magee will make the forward line tick.
Armagh enjoyed a strong national league campaign last season and put together a five-game unbeaten run to make the final.
This weekend’s opponents were the first side to take points off the Orchard County last year when the two teams drew in round three.
A low-scoring, tense affair played out in Pearse Park with Longford arguably the better team on the day and perhaps deserving of the win.
Armagh showed great character however to come back and claim a share of the spoils, having trailed for the majority of the game.
Dean Gaffney’s 71st minute point saw Armagh go ahead for the first time, but Longford tagged on the final score to earn a draw
There’s no doubt that Armagh are still one of the best teams in the division and will have a target on their backs once again this year.
Promotion is key and will be the number one target for Armagh this season before the Nicky Rackard Cup competition comes around again.
Armagh need to get off to a good start as they are on the road in rounds two and three and will hope the familiarities of the Athletic Grounds can help get them over the line.