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Armagh must go the extra mile, insists McNulty

 

Tough call: Justin McNulty predicts another close tie
Tough call: Justin McNulty predicts another close tie
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Armagh's 2002 All-Ireland winning defender Justin McNulty was not in the least surprised to see his county finish on level terms with Cavan in last Sunday's Ulster Senior Football Championship semi-final.

And the Mullaghbawn man reckons there will again be very little difference between the sides when they renew rivalry in Sunday's replay at St Tiernach's Park, Clones.

McNulty, who along with his brother Enda helped to shore up the Orchard County defence in the team's drive to the ultimate glory seventeen years ago, is convinced that both teams will have absorbed lessons from last weekend's thriller.

"Armagh need to be very focussed and very ready for the battle this time out," insists McNulty.

"While it was great for Armagh to get over Down, even though it was only by a point, Cavan showed last weekend that they are a tough, tenacious side who do not give up easily.

"When you think that Armagh's two games in the Championship have both gone to extra-time, this shows you the competitive nature of the Ulster Championship. It is way ahead of the rest."

While both sets of fans remain optimistic, they are acutely aware of how tense the exchanges can become and also recognise that games such as Sunday's can be decided by fine margins.

"While matches are more closely analysed now, you would have to take on board that Armagh have not been performing well in the Ulster Championship for some years now," added McNulty.

"In this context the win over Down was most welcome, but the challenge now is for the team to build on this.

"I know that there are a lot of optimistic noises being made, and I don't for one second under-estimate what Kieran has been doing and is doing for Armagh, but anything can happen in the white heat of a championship match.

"The team that wants victory more will win and I just hope that Armagh is that team come Sunday. We saw last Sunday how Cavan can perform. When you see the likes of Cian Mackey coming off the bench and scoring three points to take his team right back into contention after they had looked to be gone shows their strength in depth.

"I just hope Armagh prevail on Sunday - to get into an Ulster final would be a big boost for the whole county, I feel."

Meanwhile, Derry boss Damian McErlain sees his team's All-Ireland Football Round One qualifier against Wexford on Saturday as their first port of call in what he hopes will be an extended run through the qualifiers.

The Oak Leaf side may have won eight consecutive matches in claiming the Division Four crown, but that Ulster Championship defeat to Tyrone convinces McErlain that his side can now amass considerable experience through the back door.

"Players need to show what they are capable of. We face a tricky task against Wexford and I don't think it will be as high-scoring as our last meeting was," reflects McErlain.

Shane McGuigan proved Derry's scorer-in-chief during the league, while Ryan Bell, Emmett Bradley, Enda Lynn and Chrissy McKaigue were among the old guard whose consistency ultimately helped to see the Division Four title come their team's way.

"We're in the process of trying to build a side, and I saw the recent Ulster Championship game against Tyrone as a massive step forward in this undertaking," says McErlain.

Armagh vs Cavan

Ulster SFC Semi-Final Replay

Clones, Sunday, 4.00pm

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