Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Armagh trio in unique battle for Leinster glory

Justin McNulty sees it as nothing more than a "freak of nature".

Of the 11 managers that will send teams out into the Leinster Championship, three will be natives of Armagh.

What's more, they will be ex-members of the same defensive sextet that held Kerry scoreless for the last 16 minutes of Armagh's 2002 All-Ireland final triumph.

The prospect of three managers from a different province taking charge of teams in the same provincial championship is almost unique in itself. But three from the same county and the same unit of a particular team?

"There is no explanation. If you were to say to us 10 years ago that's what we'd be doing, all of us would have said, 'you're having us on, you're pulling my leg'. It's extraordinary," said McNulty.

Still, it's a reflection on the level of leadership within that team that three have been drawn by counties to a different province.

Laois boss McNulty pitches his wits against Aidan O'Rourke – in his first year as Louth manager – in Portlaoise on Sunday.

A week later Kieran McGeeney, now the longest serving manager in Leinster and second longest with a football county after Mickey Harte in Tyrone, sends his Kildare team out against Offaly to commence his sixth championship campaign.

McNulty and O'Rourke have a long history of friendship and battles. "We have been at war many times together in the trenches since we were at school," recalled McNulty.

But they'll set their history aside for a match Laois cannot contemplate losing after their first-round exit 12 months ago to Longford.

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