The spirit of ’99 can guide Armagh through

Armagh are back in another Ulster final, their second in a row, and this time they’re intent on returning home with the cup.

It’s been a tough and tortuous wait for the Orchard team and fans. 2008 is a long, long time ago. 16-years for a provincial title has saw plenty of dark days and hurt. But that will all be worth it if Aidan Forker collects the Anglo Celt on Sunday.

If you need to know anything about that pain and hurt, just ask the lads gathered on the field at half time this weekend. The Armagh team of 1999 will be honoured at the interval of Sunday’s showpiece, 25 years on from their Ulster success.

Led by the GAA President Jarlath Burns, Armagh ended a 17-year wait for an Ulster title in ’99, beating Down in the final. That kickstarted a golden age of Armagh football and saw the Orchard County dominate the provincial scene.

They collected seven Ulster titles in ten years. Armagh also won the All-Ireland and Division One league titles for the first time during that era. While an Ulster final win this weekend may not spark the same domination over the next few years, it would certainly mean a lot to the county.

2024

Last years penalty defeat to Derry still lingers in the minds. Armagh were so close to ending the drought, but just came up short in the end. And that has been an unfortunate trend throughout the last few years. When it comes to tight games, it’s usually Armagh who blinks first.

But that seemed to change in the semi-final against Down. The narrative was that Armagh would waltz to victory, but Conor Laverty’s men certainly made them work for it.

Armagh are back in another Ulster final, their second in a row, and this time they’re intent on returning home with the cup.

And with their backs to the wall, Armagh came good to strike the final three points of the day and win by one. The experience and composure displayed the last day will no doubt be required once again on Sunday. Although admittedly against a much stronger Donegal outfit.

The aura surrounding Jim McGuinness was only enhanced a few weeks ago when they beat reining champions Derry. McGuinness has returned to reignite Donegal’s own glory days, which he started over a decade ago.

On paper, both sides look fairly evenly matched although it looks like Armagh have the better forward line. Armagh’s bench is also superior to the oppositions.

How much will that count for on Sunday? Only time will tell. But for Armagh, a 99-inspired performance should lead them to glory and the thousands of fans heading to Clones will hope that is the case.