Big match reaction
By the end of next weekend, one of either Armagh or Tyrone will be gone from the All-Ireland race in the tastiest of the Round One Qualifiers .
The meeting of the two teams across the Blackwater in The Athletic Grounds has a Saturday night feel written all over it, but the context it provides is almost too good to be true for the neutral.
In meeting for the second National League game of the season, Armagh had several motivations.
Top of those were backing up the result the first day out, when they defeated Dublin in Croke Park.
Second was measuring themselves up against the Ulster and All-Ireland champions.
The third, and it cannot be underestimated in this age of scientific preparation, is sheer bloody-minded determination to get one up on your neighbour. It has served Tyrone well in the past, given that their first All-Ireland success in 2003 came 12 months after Armagh’s first and only.
The ties that bind these two are multiple. At the start of the 1990s, Tyrone joint-manager Feargal Logan played on the same Queen’s Sigerson team as the current Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney.
Prior to Christmas, both teams played an exhibition match for the ‘Time2Play’ charity in the Athletic Grounds. There was nothing to that beyond a friendly fundraising opportunity.
The next time they met was one of the most bizarre games of Gaelic football in many years. Both teams became embroiled in a pushing and shoving contest in the second half and, once the dust settled, referee David Gough dismissed no fewer than five players; four Tyrone and one Armagh.
“I’ve never seen that in my life before, and I’ve been around a lot of football,” said an exasperated Logan afterwards.
“Four men getting straight red cards like that — let’s just hope we can get a good look at the video and things will potentially balance themselves out again. It didn’t seem that one-sided a row to me, but anyway all we can do for the moment is live with it.”
On appeal, none of the red cards were overturned, although it can reasonably be argued that Tyrone’s title defences this year have looked fragile ever since. This is their chance to hit the reset button.
Elsewhere, Monaghan have the journey to Mayo to find out where their ambitions end up. Manager Seamus McEnaney has vowed Monaghan will have a big say in this Championship yet, after defeat in the Ulster semi-final. They are coming up against the great survivors in the All-Ireland Championship and whatever happens, there is sure to be terrific drama in Castlebar.
Louth, under the management of Mickey Harte and his assistant Gavin Devlin, have a trip to a vulnerable looking Cork to come.
ALL IRELAND SFC QUALIFIERS ROUND ONE
(Weekend of June 4/5): Armagh v Tyrone; Mayo v Monaghan; Cork v Louth; Clare v Meath