Derby duel a “special” occasion – McKernan

Former Down star Kevin McKernan believes it’s impossible to remove the rivalry aspect when it comes to Armagh and Down.

The form book rarely dictates the winner when these two clash. The sides have only met in the championship four times in the last 15 years, with Armagh winning three.

In 2011, Down were coming off the back of a one-point All-Ireland final defeat to Cork the when travelled to the Athletic Grounds for the opening round championship.

The Mourne men were the favourites, but with Jamie Clarke netting early and Ciaran McKeever tying up Marty Clarke, Armagh won by five-points.

Fast forward to 2017 and this time Armagh were the travelling side. They carried the favourites tag into Pairc Esler.

Two first half goals from Mark Shields and Andrew Murnin had Armagh 2-4 to 0-9 ahead at the break. But Down rallied after the turnaround to win by two-points.

“There’s so many things that the local rivalry brings,” said former Down star Kevin McKernan on this week’s The Sideline Eye Podcast.

“I remember that year that we turned them over (2017) under Eamon Burns. That year we were really, we were in a tough place again.

“Things weren’t good, and you were sort of getting through the league. I think we stayed up by the skin of our teeth with a last-minute point down in Cork to draw a game.

“But when Armagh were coming to Newry, it just gave you a serious focus to go, imagine doing a job here for your county, for your supporters. And to go and do it was class. Armagh will be thinking likewise.

Photo Credit: Ulster GAA

It’s impossible not to focus on the rivalry says McKernan. “To try and take away the Down and Armagh thing, it’s very hard to do.

“The likes of (Aidan) Nugent and Niall McParland went to Uni together in St Mary’s. Rian O’Neill going to St Colman’s, he went to school with boys that he’ll play against on Sunday.

“To move away from, this is Down and Armagh, we’ve got a game, it’s everywhere. You can see flags around Newry, the Down and Armagh flags are there.

“There’s no getting away from it. The talk will be on building sites, every place of work will be talking about, have you tickets for Clones?

“The colour and the day out that Down and Armagh in Clones will be, it’s special for the supporters and for the players to play in, it’ll be a game that they’ll remember.”