Armagh ready to seize their chance to make amends
Armagh will begin their quest for hurling redemption when they meet UUJ in the Conor McGurk Memorial Tournament at the Dub Playing Fields tomorrow (1.30).
Having missed out on the chance of promotion in the Allianz League earlier this year and then lost out to a last-minute Scotland goal in a thrilling Nicky Rackard Cup final, the Orchard County squad clearly feels it has ground to make up in 2016.
County hurling officer Liam Ross makes no bones about what will be expected from a side that is still embellished with experience and contains plenty of scoring power.
"Our team is backboned by players from the county champions Middletown and they can set the tone for our early-season performances," said Ross.
"I think that the Conor McGurk Tournament presents the perfect platform for Ulster sides to ease their way into the season now that the Leinster Council has taken the decision to prohibit counties from outside the province from taking part in the Keogh Cup."
Simon Doherty, Cathal Carvill, Ciaran Clifford, Ryan Gaffney, Nathan Currie, Kieran McKernan and John Corvan will form the bedrock of an Armagh side that could face a stiff test against a UUJ side that is expected to be bolstered by several inter-county players.
Meanwhile, Derry's success in the inaugural Conor McGurk Tournament means that they will be in pole position to beat Donegal today when the sides meet (1.30).
Tom McLean's men will then take on Down and St Mary's later in the month.
The Derry side is expected to include a mix of experienced players and fresh faces as McLean sets his sights on making progress in the league.
Tournament hosts Queen's are keen to make an impression in the event and will face an Antrim side next Thursday (7.45) that will be playing its second competitive match under new manager P J O'Mullan who makes his touchline debut against Laois in the Walsh Cup today.
"We have a fairly big squad of players and we certainly have enough to see us through both competitions," said O'Mullan.
Conor McGurk Tournament fixtures: Today: Donegal v Derry (1.30). Tomorrow: St Mary's v Down (12), Armagh v UUJ (1.30). Thurs Jan 7: Antrim v UUJ (7.45). Sat Jan 9: Derry v St Mary's (1.30). Sun Jan 10: Queen's v Armagh (12), Down v Donegal (1.30). Thurs Jan 14: Queen's Antrim (7.45); Sat Jan 16: Queen's v UUJ (12), St Mary's v Donegal (1.30). Sun Jan 17: Antrim v Armagh (12), Derry v Down (1.30).