Preview: Armagh v Antrim

March 22nd, 2017 | Football

Preview: Armagh v Antrim

Armagh host Antrim this weekend as Saturday Night Fever grips the Athletic Grounds.

This will be the first meeting of the counties in the National Football League in fifteen years and meetings have been rare over recent decades.

Further investigation though informs that the counties clashed not once but twice ninety one years ago during the inception of the NFL.  On 11 January 1926, Antrim visited Armagh, leaving with a share of the spoils. Eight weeks later, Antrim again travelled to the Cathedral City where they narrowly secured a final berth in the Ulster Section of the competition on a 1-4 to 1-3 scoreline.

Antrim won the majority of the twenty four league contests between the counties, up to their most recent success when they raided Armagh in Lurgan during the 1973-4 campaign.

Since then, the Orchard County have triumphed in their three meetings, including a hard fought encounter in 1993 where a Terry McCrudden own goal and a four point haul for Gerard Houlahan saw Armagh over the line by 1-10 to 3-2 in Casement Park, on a day where the Railway Cup Final in hurling was the curtain-raiser.

Most recently, again in Belfast, the men in orange had a more comfortable 3-12 to 1-11 success, with household names such as Steven McDonnell, Ronan Clarke and Diarmuid Marsden all finding the net in March 2002.

Of course, the rest is history for Armagh that year! However, there is a striking similarity between then and now. Buoyed on by success in Ulster in 1999 and 2000, coupled with Joe Kernan’s installation at the helm, hopes were high within the county.

Fast forward to 2017 where there is renewed enthusiasm about Kieran McGeeney’s charges after some promising displays against Offaly and Louth.

A forward line filled with menace and a defence which has stemmed the flow of goals it was conceding have catapulted Armagh back in the promotion hunt. Impressive displays by the likes of Rory Grugan and Niall Grimley have been instrumental in the recent progressive displays.

Antrim were also slow starters in this years campaign but like their hosts tonight, the reintroduction of players after injury has set a playform of four points which gives the side reasonable grounds for maintaining their status at this level and not being swallowed back down the plughole to Division 4.

The deadly accurate CJ McGourty has been instrumental, notching 1-4 last time out in an impressive victory over Laois and the expected return of the likes of Ryan Murray gives Antrim room for optimism as they make the relatively short journey to the AG.

Victory is essential if Armagh are to keep the hopes of a swift return to the next tier. However, Antrim will be keen to advance their own cause and will be keen to stop the home side in their tracks.

The sixteenth man in Armagh’s wonderful support played their part last week in Drogheda and it is critical that this amazing support turns out in vociferous large numbers come Saturday to give the team an extra edge in a fascinating Ulster derby.

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