National Football League – Round Two
Armagh vs Tyrone
Saturday 22nd May – Athletic Grounds – 7pm
Tyrone are the visitors to the Athletic Grounds this evening as the two sides rekindle an age-old rivalry.
It’s five years since the great foes faced off during the league, when a Niall Grimley goal helped secure a share of the spoils.
The rivalry peaked during the noughties when both counties were battling for All-Ireland glory, and picked up their maiden titles.
More recently however, it has been confined to pre-season competitions, with their last two meetings coming in the McKenna Cup.
Tyrone have been the superior outfit in those outings and have held the upper hand across the last ten encounters.
Armagh have only beaten their neighbours once in the last decade, that famous 2014 championship victory in Omagh.
While history points to Tyrone, whatever momentum can be carried over from the first-round games should be with the Orchard County.
Kieran McGeeney’s men got up and running with a promising display against Monaghan and currently sit top of Division One North.
Tyrone admittedly faced stiffer opposition last weekend and lost out to Donegal, although there were positive signs for the managerial duo of Fergal Logan and Brian Dooher.
Paul Donaghy was a great find in the Tyrone club championship last season, top scoring as Dungannon won the senior title.
He continued that scoring form, recording ten points on his Red Hand debut and appears to have solved Tyrone’s free-taking issue.
He is part of a deadly forward line that is being talked up as one of the best in country, with several attacking aces available up front.
Conor McKenna is one that jumps to mind and he was hugely impressive on his return from the AFL last year.
Throw in the likes of Mattie Donnelly, Darren McCurry, Darragh Canavan and Cathal McShane and you can see why Tyrone are one of the top contenders for the All-Ireland.
Armagh’s ambitions aren’t as strong as national prizes just yet, with survival still the main goal for Geezer and his men.
That doesn’t mean they won’t feel confident enough to tackle their neighbours and their own forward unit suggest that can run them close.
Rory Grugan was immense the last day out while the O’Neill brothers and Stefan Campbell will cause problems for any opposition.
With the likes of Conor Turbitt and Ross McQuillan to enter the fray from the bench, Armagh will have no worries of keeping the scoreboard ticking over.
The cause for concern is at the other end and if they are to get a result this Saturday, their tackling and discipline must improve.
There’s also question marks over their ability to keep out goals, with Monaghan’s three-pointer last weekend coming quite easily.
Armagh aren’t expected to win this game but putting it up to Tyrone and getting a good performance would be a strong step in the right direction.