Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Armagh to build on Dublin display

Armagh's Steven McDonnell is hoping to build on last week's performance against Dublin

Steven McDonnell feels Armagh are more than capable of finishing their National League campaign against Cork on a high note.

But much will depend on the quality of ball that comes into the home attack at Crossmaglen on Sunday.

"I think the service the forwards received in the game against Dublin was first-class. It helped to put us in a good position and we were able to get a few scores and take things on from there," says McDonnell who produced another vintage performance.

In a game which he describes as having been played with "something approaching championship intensity," it was Armagh's ability to put the disappointment of shooting several first-half wides behind them and capitalise on their second-half chances that proved crucial.

"I suppose you could say that the goals came at the right time for us but now we must try and build on this against Cork," adds McDonnell.

Acknowledging that Armagh have gone "from one extreme to the other" within the past fortnight - their win over Dublin was preceded by a lamentable offering against Meath - McDonnell is adamant that Armagh are well capable of playing good football.

"We need consistency now and this is a very important time of the year in which to be seeking this," he stresses.

Having previously scored 3-6 against Roscommon, the Killeavy clubman's role in the side would appear to be more secure than ever.

Yet the level of competition for places in the side is keeping everyone on their toes, he points out.

"There are players who have come in and performed very well and there are others who are keen to be back in there. It's a healthy situation, though," says the ace marksman.

McDonnell's linking with Ronan Clarke in the full-forward line and the creative flair displayed by Martin O'Rourke, Stephen Kernan and Paddy McKeever in the half-forward division were huge plus-factors against the Dubs.

Now manager Peter McDonnell is seeking a repeat of this skill and finishing power against a Cork side who dished out a surprise to Monaghan a fortnight ago.

Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney said afterwards: "Cork were the most physically imposing side we have met and they certainly made life very difficult for us."

Manager McDonnell is aware that his side are in for a rigorous test on Sunday.

"Yes, I would be aware of Cork's size and bulk as I came up against several of their current players when I was managing Armagh at Under 21 level. They will certainly be coming to Crossmaglen looking for a win," says McDonnell.

Barry Shannon, Brendan Donaghy and Finian Moriarty have been forming a durable Armagh full-back line with Donaghy in particular maturing into a very capable player.

McDonnell's decision to retain faith with this trio was certainly vindicated against the Dubs but James Masters and Alan Cronin will ask big questions of the Armagh rearguard on Sunday.

Nicholas Murphy, Graham Canty and Owen Sexton provide solid experience in a Cork side that is already focusing on their Munster championship campaign.

Manager Conor Counihan may decide to bring in some new faces but an Armagh win would certainly heighten confidence in advance of their Ulster campaign.

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