Armagh hurlers will open their Allianz league campaign on Sunday when they host neighbours, Down, in the Athletic Grounds at 2pm. While Down have got the better of the Orchardmen in recent years, including in last year’s opening league game, Armagh will be hoping to overcome their old adversaries to kickstart their 2016 campaign.
Preparations for the league campaign have been going well, with the team having put in the hard yards over the past couple of months. Armagh experienced a mixed bag in the Conor McGurk pre-season tournament with manager Sylvester McConnell using the tournament to give game time to the entire panel. Following a heavy opening day defeat to UUJ, Armagh claimed a big win over QUB and put in a great performance against Antrim in their final game, with the Glensmen running out eventual winners. Pre-season training has been very positive as Connor Devlin explained: “The boys have all been working hard with Eoin (Cadogan) over the past few months on improving our conditioning and out on the field with Gabriel (O’Kane). We’re looking forward to a positive league campaign, which will stand us in good stead for the Nicky Rackard and Ulster championship campaigns.”
Last year’s league game against Sunday’s opponents was a tight enough affair, with Down pulling away in the final ten minutes after a goal from Brook Byers. “This is Down’s second year with Michael Johnston at the helm. Having played under Michael for a number of years, most of the Armagh squad know that he is a super coach and we realise that Down will be well drilled and up for the battle. It’s up to us to meet that challenge on Sunday.” As well as a home game against Down, Armagh will travel to Donegal and Wicklow, before finishing off their campaign with home games against Meath and Mayo.
While Armagh will be aiming high in their Division 2B campaign, the overall aim will be to get back to Páirc an Chrócaigh and capture the Nicky Rackard cup to make up for the cruel loss in last year’s final against Roscommon. “We were all hurting after the loss to Roscommon in the Nicky Rackard final, especially given the circumstances of defeat. At the same time, it has hardened our resolve to improve this year and to put ourselves in a position again to reclaim the Nicky Rackard. But there is plenty of hurling to be played before that and we will be fully focused on the game on Sunday.”
Guíonn muid gach rath ar iománaithe Ard Mhacha agus ar a bhfoireann bhainistíochta ar an Domhnach beag seo. We wish the senior hurlers and their management team the very best of luck on Sunday. Throw in is at 2pm and we encourage Armagh supporters to come out and support our hurlers as they embark on what will hopefully culminate in a successful year. Ard Mhacha abú!