Boss McConnell urges Armagh to show their resilience
Armagh hurling boss Sylvester McConnell had hoped his side would enjoy a trouble-free run into the penultimate stage of the Nicky Rackard Cup.
But an unexpected loss against Mayo last weekend means the Orchard County must today tackle a tricky assignment against a Longford team that stunned Tyrone by winning 4-18 to 3-17.
Indeed, Longford's progress has provided McConnell with much food for thought as he ponders what is a journey into the unknown for his side.
"Longford are a side that we have not met in our recent travels but the fact that they impressed in losing narrowly to Fingal and then beating Tyrone suggests that they could be difficult opponents," said McConnell.
"While we did well in the league, we were given a scare by Donegal in our first game in the Nicky Rackard before winning and then we fell to Mayo. Longford have home advantage."
Armagh have come to rely on Ryan Gaffney's accuracy from frees in their pursuit of honours.
The experienced Gaffney remains central in the side but McConnell is keen to see a greater spread of scorers if possible.
"There is no doubt that we have players who are capable of taking scores. The big challenge is to make sure that they take the chances and that will be very important," he said.
"We now know that winning this particular trophy will prove extremely difficult as there is not a great deal to choose between several of the teams involved."
Monaghan, meanwhile, can bolster their chances of reaching the last four by overcoming Donegal at Inniskeen.
The Oriels beat Fermanagh 5-12 to 1-12 before slipping up 3-14 to 2-19 against Fingal but will need to be on their guard against the Donegal twin strike force of Ciaran Matthewson and Kevin Henderson.
Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald remains upbeat ahead of tomorrow's Allianz Hurling League final replay against Waterford.
The sides finished all-square at 0-22 each last weekend and they will also cross swords in the Munster championship.
"We are getting to know each other well but bring it on," declared a buoyant Fitzgerald.