Can Armagh #PipTheTipp to Promotion
The final round of fixtures is already upon us and Tipperary visit the Athletic Grounds this weekend in a fascinating and vital tie.
Whereas in past years, statisticians in crowds up and down the country frantically juggled working out the permutations of games whilst watching their own county play, this year may be a different challenge for number crunchers within the Orchard County. Armagh require a minimum of a draw to secure promotion whilst Tipperary need to return home with both points to earn a League Final berth against Louth.
The Premier County return to the Orchard County for the third time in this decade, after an excellent run to the semi-final of the All-Ireland series last summer.
Whilst Tipperary’s progression far outshone Armagh’s campaign last summer, over the years the men in orange (or the fetching black strip) have had a tradition of downing counties who reach the latter stages of our premier competition.
Who could forget Seamus Darby’s winning goal for Offaly in the 1982 All-Ireland Final, ending Kerry’s ambitions of five-in-a-row. But few outside our County boundaries will recall that on successive Sundays two months later Armagh comprehensively disposed of the challenge of each of these sides at Davitt Park (3-6 to 0-6 v Offaly and 6-7 to 4-8 v Kerry) in the National Football League.
Tipperary will look back at their previous trips to Armagh and rue the fact they left empty-handed. In 2010 at Crossmaglen, the home side galloped into a 1-9 to 0-1 half-time lead, Gareth Swift with the major score, before an amazing fourteen man comeback occurred, spearheaded by goals from Barry Grogan, which saw the blue and goal draw level in the 64th minute. Four unanswered points from Armagh sealed the points in the closing minutes, condemning the visitors to relegation that term.
More recently, in 2015, in Kieran McGeeney’s first Allianz Football League game in charge of his own county, three Jamie Clarke points in the dying minutes proved decisive after an excellent Tipperary performance had looked to have done enough.
Tipperary find themselves in this winner-takes-all situation after failing to close out a promotion slot last weekend when Louth raided Temple Stadium. Prior to this game, they had looked likely winners of the section. Registering good scores in four victories to date, it is noticeable that over two thirds of their scoring threat has come from the impressive quartet of Conor Sweeney, Michael Quinlivan, Philip Austin and Kevin O’Halloran.
Ciaran McKeever’s goal last weekend against Antrim was as good a team goal as may be seen anywhere this season, in steering the team to a deserved but hard-fought success over our neighbours. Whilst some supporters may have left disappointed that another high score had not been amassed in the victory, it is important for a developing team to learn to win in a variety of ways. Overcoming a defensive set-up is an increasingly useful asset in modern football so hopefully that game will serve to boost the sides confidence in that facet of the game and also keep their feet firmly on the ground for the new challenge that Tipperary will bring to the table on Sunday.
A mouthwatering prospect lies in store and Armagh will seek all of the support that the support can muster in a bid to return to Division 2 at the first time of asking. So bring the colour and be in good voice to make all the difference on Sunday from the stand and terraces. Let’s #PipTheTipp together!