Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Envious Armagh fans ready to fly the flag for Ulster

When it comes to sporting rivalry, Tyrone v Armagh is right up there alongside Manchester United v Liverpool, Celtic v Rangers and Linfield v Glentoran.

And yet this weekend there is more than a hint that what is regarded as one of the most fractious relationships within the GAA might just morph into a temporary truce.

Nowhere has the Red Hands bid to land what would be their third All Ireland title in six years engendered more envy than in the county across the River Blackwater whose own fate in the hunt for the biggest prize of all was sealed by their second-half collapse against Wexford in the quarter-final.

Insult was added to injury from an orchard county perspective when Mickey Harte’s men subsequently put Wexford to flight in the semi-final.

Yet on Sunday, many Armagh people will, albeit rather grudgingly, extend an olive branch to the Red Hands.

Tyrone may have endured a catalogue of injuries, made a rather ignominious exit from the Ulster Championship and struggled to find their rhythm and poise.

But they have nonetheless gone the full distance to the All Ireland final and will be comforted by a tidal wave of goodwill from many quarters - if for rather dubious reasons.

Kerry’s undoubted supremacy on the All Ireland front, carved out through skill and consistency, has, if anything, highlighted the veneer of arrogance that tends to accompany their reign at the top.

And this is why many ‘neutrals’ - is there such a breed at all? - don’t really mind who is beaten on Sunday!

When Kerry won the Sam Maguire Cup in 2006, county chairman Sean Walsh opined that it had been “returned to its home.”

The trophy, let it be said, has resided comfortably in Tyrone in 2003 and 2005.

If it is to bed down in the O’Neill County again it will take a truly inspired performance from Mickey Harte’s side to ensure this.

Mind you, a third coup for the Red Hands will add another dimension to Armagh’s envy.

But it may well just be that Sam’s possible journey across the border at Aughnacloy on Monday night will be deemed more preferable than another helping of gloating from the Kingdom.

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