By Shaun Casey
PRE-SEASON is coming to a close and that only means one thing, the return of footballing action. The hard work is done, and Armagh’s joint-captain Aidan Nugent is looking forward to the start of the league.
“Pre-season is just a matter of getting the head down and working hard. I suppose after January all you can really do is play the games, recover and do a wee bit of training during the week and go again.
“This is probably where it gets a lot more enjoyable but there’s also a lot more thinking to do and game-plans and things like that to go through.”
Armagh begin their campaign against Monaghan, an experienced Division One side at this stage, while the Orchard County are competing at the topflight for the third year in a row.
“With their new manager (Vinny Corey) and that, their players will be out with a point to prove and trying to build a wee bit of confidence. You want to get the ball rolling and you want to get two points on the board in the first game and that’s the same throughout all four divisions.
“It’ll be tricky but we’re looking forward to it. Pre-season is over so we’re looking forward to the football starting. This last eight or nine years, Monaghan have always been there or thereabouts in Ulster and even further on in the All-Ireland stages.
“They have that exact same team there, they might be missing one or two, but they’re filled with top quality players from one to 15 and beyond. It’ll not be simple trying to get two points, but we’ll go, and we’ll see what happens.”
Armagh spent a long time under Kieran McGeeney trying to get to the top tier, and with the new link to the championship, Nugent, who runs his own recovery business ‘Recover8’ in Armagh, insists that it’s the place to be.
“It’s massive, the league’s probably a lot more important this year than years gone by. Obviously, you wanted to be in Division One, but you still didn’t know where you stood come championship because it was hard to know whether teams were peaking for the league or peaking for the championship.
“Whereas now, no one can really afford to just peak for the championship because the leagus determines your seeding. So, it’ll be all guns blazing from round one and that’s the way it’ll be for the next few months.”