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Ulster sides aiming to stride on

By Declan Bogue

It's a cautious-looking Armagh who make the trek to Mullingar tonight to take on Westmeath in round 2B of the All-Ireland qualifiers (throw-in 7pm).

After their defeat to Down in the Ulster Championship, you might have expected the Orchard County men to have taken a vow of silence, but rather refreshingly they spoke freely, promising their public that their capitulation in Newry had been the fault of the players, and that some team were going to get "a hiding" one of these days.

That team turned out to be Fermanagh, with Armagh winning by nine points after the Ernesiders crumbled following the dismissal of their talismanic captain Eoin Donnelly. They face a Westmeath side hurting after conceding a record score in their last encounter against Dublin, though their record at home, and in general in winning promotion to start next season on level pegging with Armagh, has been impressive.

With Donegal meeting Meath in Navan, there will be a guaranteed atmosphere tonight, and the type of challenge that Rory Gallagher's men need to ignite their season.

There was quite a bit of dirty diesel still being blown out in their victory over Longford and the critics felt they were unconvincing, but there was a return to traditional Donegal values of sorts as they restricted their guests to a mere seven points in the game.

There is a novel pairing further down the east coast with Wexford manager Seamus McEnaney facing his native Monaghan.

The Oriels have their own demons to overcome after that crushing loss against Down and - historically at least - haven't been great in the qualifier series. But a fortnight's break will have helped them come to terms with their reduced means.

The final game involving an Ulster team has the potential to be the game of the weekend if both sides open up.

Tipperary come to Kingspan Breffni with memories of taking out Derry there last year. Cavan got past Offaly in the last round and will look to squeeze another few weeks out of this summer yet.

Belfast Telegraph


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