Armagh NHL Preview: Big name departures for Orchard men

ARMAGH are very much in a transitional phase and in 2020 they showed the sort of mixed results that one would expect of an evolving team.

They actually came through the Division 3A group stage unbeaten with three wins and two draws seeing them top the group.

They started in brilliant fashion as they left Letterkenny with a 2-17 to 0-15 win.

Eoin McGuinness and substitute Ryan Gaffney scored the goals against a Donegal side that racked up an incredible 22 wides.

Padraig O’Connor’s side followed it up with a thumping of Monaghan, with McGuinness helping himself to another two goals and Marty Moan the other in a 3-25 to 1-10 win.

Their form did dip from there. Dreadful weather conditions led to a 0-9 to 0-9 draw with Longford before they needed a Dean Gaffney point in the final play to edge past Louth.

Danny Magee struck late in the final round to earn a draw against Tyrone, a result good enough to earn a final spot. Waiting there was a vastly improved Donegal.

Armagh may have won the first meeting by eight points, but Gerard Gilmore’s goal proved crucial as the Tir Chonaill county reversed their fortunes to win 1-18 to 0-19 – earning promotion in the process.

It was a disappointing end for the Orchard county, but they will remain one of the favourites for promotion in the coming weeks.

Stepping away .

Keady’s Stephen Reneghan has stepped away, as have Middletown brothers Ryan and Dean Gaffney. Dylan McKenna and Kieran McKernan are other players not expected to be involved.

James King has returned though, while promising Croabh Rua player Tiernan O’Hare has linked up with the squad. Peter McKearney is also understood to be there, and the Derrynoose dual player is highly rated.

Armagh will face Sligo, Tyrone, Monaghan and Longford in Division 3A. There is no final this year as top spot earns promotion. Armagh will be disappointed if they are not top of the pile in a few weeks’ time.

O’Connor wants stability 

PADRAIG O’Connor came into the Armagh role in 2018 in difficult conditions.

Paddy Kelly had stepped down mid-season and ‘Tada’ took over before their Christy Ring meeting with Down.

The side suffered a heavy defeat against their neighbours, but O’Connor has tried to steady the ship ever since.

He hasn’t been helped by the loss of some really experienced players in recent seasons, but he has been able to bring some young players into the squad.

Promotion will be one of the main aims this season for O’Connor.

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