Armagh finished their 2022 National League campaign with a defeat to Donegal in Letterkenny on Sunday.
It was only their third defeat of the season and they finished third in the table. Just behind league finalists Kerry and Mayo.
Division One security was the goal from the start and the Orchard achieved that target with one game remaining.
Now it’s all about turning that form into a championship run. But before we look ahead to the championship, lets reflect on a positive league campaign.
1. Squad depth
Kieran McGeeney added a range of new players to the squad this year, and some made the step up immediately.
Ciaran Mackin, Armagh’s Player of the League, has been fantastic and is great choice around the middle.
Armagh have lots of options in every position now. The bench is filled with players that would get starting jerseys in a lot of other counties.
Oisin O’Neill, Conor Turbitt and Ross McQuillan have all be injured recently and their return with add an even more competitive edge.
2. Competitive edge
Target number one for the season would have been to retain Division One status and Armagh did so.
Not only that, put the showed that they can compete with and beat the best teams in the country.
The wins over Dublin and Tyrone were huge to start with and they also defeated a Kildare team that were on a high after overcoming the Dubs.
Armagh probably should have beaten Mayo and were only a goal off Kerry, so they certainly showed they deserve to be at this level.
3. Case for defence
Armagh’s defence came in for a lot of criticism last season, as they conceded four first half goals to Monaghan.
But they developed a defensive structure this year that is extremely difficult to break down. A lot of credit must go to defensive coach Ciaran McKeever.
Armagh only conceded three goals throughout the entire league, to Dublin, Kerry and Donegal.
That’s their best record since their 2018 Division Three campaign when they also conceded three goals.
4. Attacking quality
On the other hand, Armagh finished the league with eight goals and netted in all apart from one game.
The Kerry encounter in round six was the only time the Orchard didn’t raise a green flag in the entire league.
They’ve mixed up their attacking quality as well. Rian O’Neill can play inside or come out as a playmaker.
Others such as Aidan Nugent, Jason Duffy and Andrew Murnin have performed well. They still have plenty of options to come off the bench as well.
5. Roll on the championship
Now it’s all about the championship. Armagh haven’t contested or won an Ulster final since 2008 but now they have a team capable of doing it.
The scenes at the end of the game in Letterkenny only go to further whet the appetite for the opening round.
Armagh have shown what they can do in the league but now they have to back it up when it really matters.
A win over Donegal will be the biggest indication of Armagh’s rise and the excitement is only beginning.