Ulster Championship: Armagh right at home in Clones
They may have played just one championship match at their refurbished spiritual home but Armagh have no strenuous objections to resuming their travels once more.
Paddy O’Rourke’s side will now meet Derry in the first of the Ulster senior football championship semi-finals at Clones on Sunday week in a match that will kickstart a proverbial feast of top-class action at St Tiernach’s Park.
The second semi-final on June 26 between Tyrone and the winners of Sunday’s last quarter-final between Cavan and Donegal will also be played there, as will the final on July 17.
Armagh, of course, played many of their home championship matches in Clones during their 16-year exile from the Athletic Grounds.
But while the orchard county’s track record in Clones is impressive, this will not breed the slightest hint of complacency for the clash with the Oak Leaf side.
Manager Paddy O’Rourke has already confirmed that his side are prepared to play anywhere in their pursuit of another Ulster title.
“One pitch is the same as another to us and we will certainly be ready for action in Clones. We would have no preference for this over any other venue,” said O’Rourke.
He nonetheless believes that his side will face a daunting test against Derry.
“We saw the way that Tyrone overcame Monaghan and now we know that Cavan v Donegal on Sunday will be a very intense game.
“Obviously Tyrone are very much in the frame but our only concern is Derry. They will be very keen to get into the Ulster final and we know that John Brennan will have them fired up,” says O’Rourke.
O’Rourke is expected to name an unchanged side to face Derry who will be seeking to atone for what manager Brennan described as a below-par display in winning against Fermanagh in their quarter-final.
“Armagh have been the major force in Ulster while Derry have not won an Ulster title since 1998,” reflects Brennan. “There is a gulf between the sides that I want to see bridged. We certainly need to step up on our performance against Fermanagh.”