Nicky Rackard Cup – Play-Off
Armagh vs Tyrone
Saturday 3rd July – Athletic Grounds – 1.30pm
It’s déjà vu this weekend for Armagh and Tyrone. They lock horns in the Athletic Grounds on Saturday, two weeks out from their most recent meeting.
That dead rubber league clash meant little in terms of the Division 3A table. It was all about laying down a marker for this weekend.
Armagh came out on top after a tight tussle and were marginally the better team throughout. They deservingly picked up a 1-25 to 2-19 victory.
That result will count for nothing if the Red Hand County grab revenge this weekend in the opening round of the Nicky Rackard Cup.
It’s a competition that brings mixed emotions from the Armagh faithful. The Orchardmen remain one of the best teams at this level, but have failed to get over the line in recent years.
Donegal ended their run last season in convincing fashion and Armagh will hope to bounce back this time around.
Captain Aaron Fox has relocated to Canada and won’t be available for the remainder of the season. This could prove a massive blow for Padraig O’Connor’s side.
The Derrynoose defender has been the the stand-in skipper with Nathan Curry still out through injury.
The Orchardmen do have enough talent, experience and leaders on the team that will help to fill the void.
Simon Doherty and Ciaran Clifford both started when the county last captured the Nicky Rackard Cup back in 2012, while several others have experienced the big day.
Peter McKearney’s return to the fold has been a bright spark of the league campaign. The emergence of the accurate Fionntan Donnelly has also caught the eye.
Stephen McKearney impressed the last day out in his first start of the season. Eoin McGuinness’ return to the edge of the square has saw him strike 1-4 in two games.
Tyrone have some firepower of their own in the form of their talisman Damien Casey and free-taker Cian Ferguson.
The pair are the main scoring threats as shown in the recent league meeting. Former Antrim star CJ McGourty came on that day and raised a late green flag.
Armagh’s early goal a fortnight ago was important in establishing a foothold in the game and they will look for a good start once again.
The Orchard County have made the Athletic Grounds a fortress. They have proven to be very hard to beat on their own home ground.
They haven’t been beaten at home in over three years and they’ll hope that trend can continue this weekend.
Armagh head into the contest as slight favourites. But based on recent meetings, Tyrone are no pushovers and another cracking contest could be instore.