Armagh senior hurlers will be hoping to make it third time lucky on Saturday 10 June, when they make the now familiar trip to GAA headquarters at Croke Park. The Orchard hurlers will contest their third consecutive Nicky Rackard final, as they aim to banish the memories of the last second sucker-punch goal by Roscommon in 2015 and of the 2016 defeat to Mayo. This year’s opposition is fellow-Ulster side, Derry, who were tipped as competition favourites from the outset.
Armagh will enter the game with plenty of confidence after a good result and impressive performance in their semi-final victory over Tyrone. David Carvill played a real captain’s role in that game and Armagh will again look to the Middletown man to provide that same leadership in Croke Park. Conor Corvan has also been in good form of late and the wide expanses of Croke Park may suit Conor and Cahal Carvill will certainly enjoy the extra space. Ryan Gaffney and Eoin McGuinness will also be good targetmen for picking out the high ball. The Armagh rearguard has stood tall this year with Ciarán Clifford, Artie McGuinness, John Corvan and Nathan Curry performing well of late, and they will need to be on their guard against a potent Derry attack which has amassed an incredible 16-55 in their campaign so far.
Derry are buoyed this year by the return of their Ulster champion contingent from Slaughtneil. Despite a mixed bag in the league and a nervy opener to their Nicky Rackard campaign against Louth, they easily swept away the challenges of Longford and surprise semi-finalists Monaghan. Brendan Rogers will be hoping to continue his fine scoring run, having hit two hat tricks in the last two games, but along with his club mate Chrissy McKaigue, he will also hope to have fully recovered from Derry footballers’ heavy defeat to Tyrone. Derry will look to their seasoned campaigners Ruairí Convery and the Hinphey brothers to push them on in Croke Park. Saturday’s final will be Derry’s first appearance in the Nicky Rackard final since 2006, but they will want to forget their last appearance at GAA headquarters, when they lost heavily to Kerry in the 2015 Christy Ring final.
Armagh senior hurlers have been making great strides in the recent years, under the management of Sylvester McConnell, having appeared in three successive Nicky Rackard finals and two successive Ulster finals. This year’s Division 2A league campaign was the highest level that Armagh has ever hurled at and they competed well against London, Antrim and a Kildare side backboned by transfers from Limerick, Kilkenny and Tipperary. Saturday’s match-up provides Armagh with the opportunity to finally win back the Nicky Rackard cup and move up to the higher Christy Ring championship level. The players will be looking forward to another day out at Croke Park and they will be well-prepared for the massive challenge that Derry will pose. Best of luck to Sylvester and to the Armagh players on Saturday.