To be able to mount a meaningful challenge for major honours, a team must be viewed to be in a comfortable position.
That’s where Armagh find themselves just now as they prepare to launch their bid to make it into the All-Ireland Football Semi-Finals at the expense of Galway in Croke Park today.
Kieran McGeeney’s side are viewed as settled tenants in Division One of the League, and they have put their Ulster Championship defeat against Donegal behind them and beaten Tyrone and Donegal in quick succession in the Qualifiers to underline a dynamic recovery which has triggered lively debate up and down the country.
I believe that their confrontation with Galway this afternoon will be a titanic struggle between two teams who will both feel they now have a bigger point to make.
While there is no doubt that Armagh have progressed, Galway could also be said to have followed a somewhat similar trajectory.
They looked assured in winning promotion to Division One, there is a better balance to their side right now in terms of youth and experience and they have acquired a level of confidence which I think should stand them in good stead this afternoon.
I must say I like the look of this Galway side. They appear to have sorted out some of their defensive issues and are currently playing with greater cohesion and composure.
Manager Paraic Joyce has got his players playing to a plan with which they are comfortable and he makes no secret of his desire to see the team arrive in the All-Ireland Semi-Finals.
The fact that they have quality finishers from No.8 to No.15 in their line-up gives an indication of Galway’s firepower and there is no doubt that Joyce will want to see plenty of evidence of this today.
I think Galway are capable of holding their own against any of the top sides such is their hunger and ambition, and I expect these two qualities to be very much in evidence against Armagh this afternoon.
Indeed, I fancy that we might be in for an old-school shoot-out with the emphasis very much on putting scores on the board rather than adhering to rigid defensive plans which invariably make for boring viewing.
While the Armagh v Galway match certainly holds special appeal for me, I must admit I am rather more intrigued by the Mayo v Kerry match which will follow it.
I have no doubt that Mayo will bring their great hunger to the table again in their pursuit of the All-Ireland title but you can take it from me that Jack O’Connor’s Kingdom will not be standing on any ceremony.
They will be applying their direct tactics and will hope to replicate the scoring skills that characterised their recent Munster title triumph.
I think it is worth pointing out that all four teams in today’s games have reasonable grounds for thinking that they can go the whole way into the All-Ireland Final.
That’s why there will be a keen edge to both of these matches and why so many thousands of tickets were sold in just a matter of hours when they initially became available for purchase.
While Mayo and Kerry are no strangers to the biggest game of the year, Galway and Armagh undoubtedly share an intense desire to make it into the All-Ireland Final.
There has been much speculation since the Quarter-Finals draw was made as to just how things might turn out and that’s what adds appeal and intrigue to the closing stages of the competition.
I think the stage is set for a festival of football that will show the GAA in a good light and underline the particular enticing lure of the All-Ireland series.
It’s all such a big change from last year when we had limited crowds because of Covid restrictions but today it will be very much business as usual and I for one cannot wait for the action to get under way.
So the doubters were left with a small smattering of egg on their faces. Certainly the Tailteann Cup did not captivate the island but as the competition meandered along, we were all left with the distinct impression that it fulfilled a useful slot in the fixtures calendar.
If circumstances saw a delayed start — it did not get off the ground last year — then it can be safely said that lost ground has been made up.
The special atmosphere in Croke Park last Sunday when Cavan and Sligo, and Westmeath and Offaly, met in the Semi-Finals provided further evidence that there is definitely a role for the competition.
Indeed, such was the electric atmosphere and the passion of supporters that the penultimate matches in the competition carried their own brand of entertainment.
I, for one, am looking forward to the Cavan v Westmeath Final with considerable interest because I think we are in for a thrilling game and players who might not normally get the opportunity to perform at Headquarters will get the chance to strut their stuff.
I suspected from the outset that Cavan’s approach to the competition would lead to them being installed as favourites to lift the silverware and they have certainly lived up to that billing throughout their path.
While my former Crossmaglen Rangers and Armagh colleague Tony McEntee saw his Sligo side beaten by Cavan in the Semi-Final, I have no doubt that his team will have benefited from their involvement in the competition.
They were involved in extra games which suitably extended their season and they will benefit from that, I feel.
It was interesting to note, too, that all four Semi-Final sides adopted a positive approach, moving the ball quickly in trying to create scoring opportunities at any given time.
I’ll not say that safety first tactics were eschewed altogether but I must admit it was pleasant to see teams string a series of passes together going forward as opposed to indulging in lateral exchanges.
Westmeath have certainly impressed me to date and they are definitely showing the benefits of the extra games which the Tailteann Cup has afforded them.
With John Breslin in unstoppable scoring form and a defence that does not yield too much, the midland outfit could prove a hot handful for Cavan in the decider.
For their part, Cavan and their manager Mickey Graham embraced the competition enthusiastically from the outset and, who knows, their reward may be just round the corner — but Westmeath will certainly have something to say about that.