Armagh renew rivalry with Down

It’s been one whole year since Down and Armagh renewed their rivalry and he two foes meet once again at the same juncture. The dangling prize of a spot in the Ulster final awaits the winner this weekend.

Armagh came out on top in 2023 thanks to four goals from Andrew Murnin, Shane McPartlan, Ciaran Mackin and Rian O’Neill. 12 months on, Armagh are arguably in a better position with an all-round stronger squad.

Peter McGrane and Oisin Conaty both emerged in the league as guaranteed starters. Oisin O’Neill is back fit although his role has been very much limited to that of an impact sub while Blaine Hughes has been magnificent between the sticks.

Armagh easily dealt with their Division Two defeat to Donegal as they blew Fermanagh out of the water at Brewster Park two weeks ago. They looked like a team primed for a real tilt at an Ulster title.

Just the previous night, Down had secured their spot in the Ulster semi-final, but manager Conor Laverty wasn’t happy with how his side performed. Down looked sluggish but a few bursts of bright periods were enough to get past Antrim.

That’s two games in a row now that Down have failed to live up to the hype. That devasting Division Three final loss to Westmeath perhaps still lingering in the back of their minds.

Quality additions

But looking back at last season and on paper, the Mourne men have improved, given the personnel they have available. Barry O’Hagan has returned as has Caolan Mooney, although he is currently injured.

Odhran Murdock will be available for selection this time having missed out last year due to his involved with the Down u20s. But he’ll be a major boost for the men in red and black at centerfield.

It’s been one whole year since Down and Armagh renewed their rivalry and he two foes meet once again at the same juncture
Photo Credit: John Merry

Laverty’s match ups will be key but the problem for the Kilcoo native is deciding which fires he wants to put out. Stefan Campbell, Conor Turbitt and Jarly Og Burns all claimed majors against Fermanagh.

Rory Grugan gave a man of the match performance and Andrew Murnin is Armagh’s best ball winner inside. Rian O’Neill played at midfield but drifted in and out of the forward line.

It looks like Kieran McGeeney’s team is further down the track and while Down need to win to keep their dreams of competing for the Sam Maguire alive, Armagh need a place in the Ulster final more and they look best placed to achieve that.

Check out the Armagh team news: Rafferty returns to Armagh squad