By Kieran Lynch
ARMAGH are going into this weekend’s home clash against Donegal with an extra degree of confidence after they got their Nickey Rackard Cup campaign off to a winning start last week.
The Orchard County would have been sick of the sight of Roscommon, having lost to the Rossies twice in the league, but they upped their game, and left Dr Hyde Park with a 2-24 to 0-18 win, which sets them up for a strong championship campaign.
“I think if we had been beaten again, it would have had a very negative effect on the players; it would have been hard to turn the mood around,” said Armagh manager Karl McKeegan.
“I think it was most important for the players to know themselves that they were capable of beating Roscommon. The way they hurled was a credit to them, they were excellent.
“We were annoyed with how we played in the final – we had chances to win but didn’t take them – but we knuckled down, trained hard and getting that win has set us up well for the rest of the championship.”
Outside of the fact that Armagh wanted to get the Roscommon monkey off their back, it was important to win to get momentum started for what lies ahead.
“The most important thing from winning that game is the confidence gained,” said McKeegan.
“If we had have lost last week, the travel up the road wouldn’t have been very enjoyable. Then it would have been a case of boys coming to training on Tuesday night, and we’re trying to lift the mood.
“But instead, now everybody is in great form, the sun is shining, and we are right in the middle of championship hurling.
“As a manager, it’s easier to train the boys after a win, than it is a loss, and if I push them a wee bit more in training, they won’t be feeling sorry for themselves.”
Up next, they battle Donegal, who play in a higher Division – 2B – but McKeegan believes the two sides are fairly evenly matched.
“There is not a lot in it,” he said.
“Playing in that level above in the league probably gives them a little bit of an edge, but as I said to the boys, ‘leagues are playing, championships are for winning,’ so you have to lift your level, which we were able to do last week.
“We know it’s going to be tough, but we’re going in confident, and we’re going to give it everything.”
The game will be played at the Box-It Athletic Grounds, and McKeegan is hoping to see a strong support for his players.
“Playing at home does help; the players are more settled, most of our boys won’t have too far to travel on Saturday,” he said.
“All I’m hoping is that we can get a bit of a crowd behind us, we had a great game last week and the standard of hurling was brilliant, so I’m hoping that word of that gets out around the county, and we get a few more fans on Saturday.
“Because the work that these boys are putting in, they deserve the support.”