National Football League – Round One
Monaghan vs Armagh
Sunday 16th May – Brewster Park – 3pm
2012 was the last time Armagh competed against the best teams in the country during the league, and they are finally back at that level.
Kieran McGeeney dragged his team up to the topflight following a few years of yoyoing between the second and third divisions.
Now they’re back, it’s all about staying there. The last thing Geezer and his men want is to fall straight back down.
A win this weekend wouldn’t secure their spot but would go along way in helping to keep their status for another year.
While it may not be the be all and end all for the losers, it does make it so much harder to keep in the top tier.
Kieran McGeeney has named a strong starting team to take on the challenge, with plenty of options to come in off the bench if needed.
Youngsters like Conor Turbitt and Ross McQuillan may be introduced at some stage and their speed would warrant a testing time for any tired defender.
Armagh have a full-back line made up of the team’s best man-markers and any of the trio could be detailed with the job of facing Conor McManus.
James Morgan tied up the Clontibret man in the 2014 Ulster Championship semi-final draw, but Aidan Forker is the man likely to take up the role.
The Maghery full-forward shadowed McManus in the teams last meeting in 2019 and done his job expertly, holding him to just one point from play.
Forker has been transformed into the teams go-to man- marker. Although he could offer so much going forward, he excels when cancelling out the oppositions best man.
Aaron McKay gets his first start since Armagh’s defeat to Laois last season and slots in at centre half back.
Jemar Hall hasn’t been named in the starting line-up since Armagh’s victory over Cavan in the 2020 McKenna Cup, but comes into the half forward line.
Ciaron O’Hanlon has returned the starting team following a three-year absence and his club form last season will excite the Armagh followers.
While there are some newcomers to the playing squad, it’s the additions to the management team that have attracted the most attention.
It will be interesting to see what Kieran Donaghy and Ciaran McKeever’s influence has been on the small about of training time they’ve had with the team.
Although the Orchard faithful wouldn’t be able to travel to Enniskillen, they will be cheering on their side from their living rooms.
Ironically, Brewster Park was the last ‘normal’ game played before lockdown, when Armagh fans witnessed a terrific performance that helped gain promotion.
While Armagh will certainly not have it all their own way, they will be confident of having enough in their squad to get the win.