Armagh football boss Kieran McGeeney derived considerable comfort from his team’s encouraging itinerary in Division One North of the Allianz League but now he believes they face into “a major test” in the Ulster Senior Football Championship.
The Orchard County will face Antrim in the second quarter-final of the competition on Sunday and McGeeney is particularly keen to see his team build on the progress they made in the league.
Indeed, with Armagh being viewed as dark horses in many quarters — including outside the province — to become provincial champions for the first time since 2008, there will now be added pressure as they prepare for Sunday’s quarter-final with Antrim at the Athletic Grounds (3.30pm).
Injuries may have decimated McGeeney’s resources to some extent over the course of recent weeks but with several key players including Andrew Murnin, James Morgan and Aidan Forker back in harness, there are renewed grounds for optimism and the manager himself perhaps best encapsulates this.
“If on any given day everyone in our team played to their potential, then I believe they are capable of beating any team in the country,” insisted McGeeney. “That’s obviously a very personal opinion. I know maybe people will laugh at it but I believe that.”
The sudden-death element in the Championship means that added fervour will now be brought to games and although last Sunday’s opener between Donegal and Down sadly morphed into a disappointingly one-sided affair, McGeeney is convinced that upcoming games will be of a rather more competitive nature.
“I think teams will be challenging themselves, that’s for sure, I mean, do we in Armagh have good enough talent in our team to win the Ulster crown? I believe we do. Have we proven yet that we can achieve this? No,” admitted McGeeney with typical candour.
“This is a major test that every team faces into. This is where the proof of the pudding is and that’s the great thing about the Championship.”
Meanwhile, Armagh Under-20 boss Peter McDonnell admits he would like to have had more time with his squad in advance of tonight’s Ulster Championship preliminary round tie against Donegal at Ballybofey (8pm).
“Sometimes this is not always possible because of various factors but we are nonetheless looking forward to the game. Donegal will be tough opponents,” stated McDonnell.
Derry and Monaghan will meet in the 2020 Ulster Minor Football Championship final tonight at O’Neill’s Healy Park, Omagh (7.30pm).
Both teams impressed in their semi-final wins over Tyrone and Fermanagh respectively last weekend and the indications are that tonight’s contest could prove to be highly entertaining.