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Aidan Forker and Armagh are fired up by tough talking

By John Campbell

Interim captain Aidan Forker is convinced that the "frank conversations" the Armagh players had among themselves following their humiliation by Cavan in their Allianz League encounter will reap dividends when the counties renew rivalry in the Ulster Championship on Sunday.

Forker, whose abrasive style and wholehearted endeavour have helped to make him a key player in the side, has himself never been slow to air his views and now suggests that a bout of straight talking could help the Orchard County to exact revenge for their league setback.

Indeed, he confirms that it was not really necessary for manager Kieran McKeever or his backroom to air their views in what was a desolate dressing-room.

"Nothing was really said by the management but there were certainly a few words exchanged between us players," said Forker.

"There was severe disappointment after that game. We didn't apply ourselves to what we were supposed to do at all and once the floodgates opened it was hard to stop.

"When opponents gain momentum you could be beaten by 10 or 15 points before you even know it."

He added: "We had a good sit-down after the game and we made a few tweaks and had some frank conversations on the training ground. The upshot was that over the course of the last three games in the league we showed an improvement.

"We are always committed to improving our standards within the group and that is not just coming from the management, it's coming from the players themselves who are challenging each other to try and improve.

"I don't know how long it's going to take but at the end of it hopefully there'll be a bit of success."

The durable Forker will again have a key role in linking defence and attack at Kingspan Breffni Park on Sunday where he knows that newly-promoted Cavan, with the backing of what is expected to be the biggest home gallery for some time, will be anxious to transfer their impressive league form onto the championship stage.

Yet despite the fact that Armagh were relegated in the league and plummeted against Cavan in particular, Forker still insists that his team has the capacity to come good.

"We know we have the potential to do something, we've shown it in patches," he said. "It's been ups and downs over the years and ups and downs within actual games. We would show glimpses of good football and then we would do something silly or make a wrong decision that really cost us.

"It can be frustrating but you just have to remind yourself why you're doing it.

"If you were in it for the successes you wouldn't be in it for too long. There's lots of other benefits to playing - your friends and all that."

"Sometimes the management get frustrated watching us but it's not for want of trying. We've been working really hard this past few weeks on the pitch and with Julie Davis, our strength and conditioning coach."

Forker, aware that Armagh's status as a football force has suffered a hammer-blow now that life in Division Three has become a reality, clearly believes that the team is fully aware of the consequences of failure on Sunday.

Yet draws against Galway and Tyrone and a win over Derry in their last three league games have rekindled optimism among supporters that they might just have something up their sleeve for the Ulster Championship.

Forker, ever the realist, paints a starker picture, though.

"One defeat and you're not a good team any more - that's the Championship for you. If someone gets a good start on you it's hard to claw that back because Championship football is very much on the day," he said.

"That's what we're up against but hopefully on Sunday we'll get a good start and kick on. If we get a win it would give us a lot of confidence - it's the Ulster Championship, every game is massive and tough. We'll see how it goes."

  • Ulster SFC quarter-final: Kingspan Breffni Park, Sunday, 3.30pm

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