Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Armagh preparing for tough test against Down

Armagh manager Peter McDonnell is hoping that his side will engage a higher gear when they confront Down in the Ulster semi-final at Clones on Sunday.

McDonnell was more than happy to see his side ease past Cavan in their opening championship engagement and acknowledges that a Down team fresh from their first round replay win over Tyrone will be fired up for battle.

"I know that we maybe could have played better against Cavan but at the same time we were happy to take the win. Down have been going well of late and I have no doubt that they will be very tough opponents especially as they have been out of the Ulster Championship spotlight for some time," says McDonnell.

Armagh's traditional route one policy served them well against Cavan but McDonnell prefers to think that his team have rather more strings to their bow.

"Obviously when you have players of the calibre of Ronan Clarke and Steven McDonnell up front you want to give them plenty of the ball but that means we must get on top at midfield if we can. Down showed against Tyrone that they are very capable in this department," observed McDonnell.

Armagh's defence formed a strong barrier to the Cavan attack but it remains to be seen if they can contain a Down unit that was not perhaps at its most productive against Tyrone at Pairc Esler even though they won the match in the end.

Indeed, the two outings against Tyrone will undoubtedly have further fuelled Down's hopes that they make a strong bid to end a 14 -year title famine.

Not since 1994 has the provincial title rested in the Mourne county and the management team of Ross Carr and D J Kane are particularly keen to see this gap bridged.

Carr has rekindled Down's hopes of joining the elite again £ they were up there long before any other Ulster team in the past, of course £ but he knows that Armagh will provide a very stiff challenge.

"I was very happy with our performance against Tyrone over the course of the two games. We know Armagh's style and the question now is if we can counter it. They have loads of experience and a lot of big-game players who revel in these kind of occasions. We won't fear them, though," maintains Carr.

Liam Doyle, Ambrose Rodgers, Dan Gordon, Ronan Murtagh and Benny Coulter provide the experienced edge to a Down side that will enjoy massive backing for what promises to be a cracking clash.

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