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Armagh must be Tipp top to triumph

By John Campbell

A week spent fending off criticism of his team's alleged torturous training regime, coming to terms with the defection of goalkeeper Philip McEvoy and digesting the sobering lesson handed out by Tyrone in the semi-final of the McKenna Cup could yet end on a high note for Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney.

But that will only happen if his side find their rhythm and amend their defensive flaws when Tipperary come calling at the Athletic Grounds tomorrow in a Division Three league opener that appears to have particular appeal.

Not so long ago Tipperary were regarded as also-rans in both league and championship but a stirring renaissance at Under 21 level has lit the flame of hope at senior level and thus commitment and confidence will not be in short supply.

They may be without highly-regarded defender Ciaran McDonald because of injury but Tipperary will be armed with a physical presence and skill.

In the past, the Athletic Grounds was regarded as a fortress but that is no longer the case and it will take players such as Jamie Clarke, Ciaran McKeever, Aaron Findon and Mark Shields to be on top of their game if the Orchard County is to bloom.

Armagh's indifferent McKenna Cup run has posed more questions than answers although McGeeney is philosophical as he puts the final touches to preparations for what will be his first match in charge of the Orchard County in a national competition.

"No team can afford to drop early points," he says. "We have to go flat out from the start if we are serious about promotion."

Armagh fans found it difficult to comprehend that their team was shunted into Division Three.

Reality bit with a vengeance then - now it's up to McGeeney's men to ensure that their tenure in unfamiliar territory is as brief as possible.

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