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We should expect another fiery chapter to Tyrone-Armagh rivalry

Old rivals: Tempers flare in last year’s McKenna Cup final between Armagh and Tyrone
Old rivals: Tempers flare in last year’s McKenna Cup final between Armagh and Tyrone
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

There are McKenna Cup games, and then there are different shades of McKenna Cup games.

One such example comes with the meeting of Tyrone and Armagh in the Athletic Grounds on Wednesday night (throw-in 8pm).

Games between these two have provided ample entertainment over the years. The January pre-season competition is used for extensive reasons, mostly for getting a look at players who are new to the training panel while the stakes aren't high.

But no matter when Armagh and Tyrone come together, things can get combustible.

Just look at the first time the Orchard played under Kieran McGeeney and 8,463 people flocked to the Athletic Grounds, causing a half-an-hour delay to the start of the match. Eight minutes in, Colm Cavanagh and Ciaran McKeever were red-carded for their part in a mass melee.

Armagh's desire for that game came out of the previous year in Omagh when they were subjected to an unmerciful tanking, 5-16 to 0-7 the final score.

Last year, the two met in the final and produced another fractious affair, three players seeing red cards before Tyrone triumphed 0-16 to 0-14. It would be foolish to expect anything other than something similar tonight.

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With both teams boosting a healthy score difference, a narrow loss for either could still see them through as the best runners-up.

In Section B, the winners of Down and Antrim will go through to contest the semi-finals. Both sides beat Fermanagh over the past two Sundays with Paddy McBride's last-minute goal giving the Saffrons a chance as they travel to Newry tonight.

With an influx of young and old players into his camp, Antrim manager Lenny Harbinson will be keen to reach the semi-finals and get another chance to test his team.

Elsewhere, Derry manager Rory Gallagher has never put much store in the McKenna Cup and will not be too concerned about what unfolds when they host Donegal in the final game of Section A in Celtic Park tonight.

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