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McGuinness urges Orchard to ease Cup final woe

By Declan Bogue

His hurling helmet may be the green and white of his club Newry Shamrocks, but Artie McGuinness' dreams are tangerine as he expects Armagh to atone for the last two Nicky Rackard Cup final defeats.

As a youngster, McGuinness and his brother Eoin represented Down at every level, but admits his upbringing in the tiny village of Meigh leaves him feeling as Armagh as Slieve Gullion.

"We were born in Armagh, were always Armagh supporters, it's just from under-age, Under-12 or whatever, you just got into that Down rhythm and started going to them all the time but the travel, everything involved with Down just didn't suit us," said McGuinness, referring to the unusual ferry journeys across the Ards peninsula to train for the Mournemen.

"When I played for Down I always gave everything for the jersey but there is something extra special about your home county. I have always considered myself an Armagh man."

For a time, Down hurling experimented with a South Down team, intended to nurture talent in and around the Newry clubs, and the McGuinness brothers plied their trade with them for a spell.

Artie explained: "I got on very well with the South Down manager, Paddy Braniff, he did a lot for me. Rather than play on Down senior panels, I would have preferred to play for Paddy and that South Down team. Moving to Armagh was no big deal."

The Orchard County have recovered from an opening round defeat to Donegal. They beat Louth and, last Saturday, Longford by the tune of 4-20 to 0-12 to emphatically seal their place in a semi-final against Tyrone on May 20.

The Red Hands are managed by former Armagh player and manager Mattie Lennon, and McGuinness laughs at the thought that there could be any unknowns between the teams.

"We have played Tyrone many times. They are a good fighting team, we know them and they know us inside out. It will be a great, tough game," he said.

"But we don't fear anyone. We know we can beat anyone in this competition. We have been beating Christy Ring teams regularly these past few years so we are always confident going into every match."

Armagh won this competition in 2010 and 2012, but lost the last two finals against Roscommon and Mayo respectively. McGuinness is still waiting for his first Croke Park day in the sun.

"A lot of these boys, the Nathan Currys, Cahal Carvills, Ryan Gaffneys, were all coming to their peak," he said of when he started out.

"We are just hitting it at the right time at the minute."

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