1: Armagh blown away by Donegal in Ulster semi-final
WITH Division One football secured and a decent, if unspectacular, Ulster win notched up against Derry, Armagh went into their Ulster semi-final in a confident mood. The talk was right, they would have to learn lessons from 2015 when they secured Division Two football but were well beaten by the Tir Chonaill county in their championship opener – but the outcome was the same. The game-plan was to really go on the front foot, but even with Stephen McMenamin going off injured early for Donegal, Kieran McGeeney’s side didn’t land a blow. The fact that Niall Grimley wasn’t fit to start was a big problem, but it wouldn’t have made much difference anyway. It was meek stuff and the final scoreboard read Donegal 1-22 Armagh 0-13. The fact that Cavan defeated Donegal in the Ulster final only brought more questions. They will need to answer some of those over the next few months, but Division One football should help.
2: What do you think of that Armagh fans?
ONE of the surprise appointments for the 2021 season arrived in mid-December when it was revealed that Kieran Donaghy would be joining the Armagh backroom team. ‘Star’ had some battles with Kieran McGeeney and co., especially when getting the better of Franice Bellew in the 2006 All-Ireland quarter-final in what was the last real run of that brilliant Joe Kernan team. It was a surprise move, but it will bring a bit of excitement to the Orchard sideline next year. The players should take plenty from him, especially given his basketball past, and it will be one worth watching. ‘Geezer’ has never been afraid to try something new, and he never really cared what anyone thought either. They were former opponents and now McGeeney and Donaghy will try and give Armagh a footing in Division One. As Donaghy told GL, a lot of pieces fell into the right place.
3: Armagh ladies on the charge – and aiming for more
THE condensed season seemed to work for Armagh and they reacted well to being in the spotlight as they trounced Tyrone and bettered Mayo to reach the last four of the All-Ireland. There they met heavyweights Dublin and despite a horrific start, they soon showed they were fit enough for the challenge. A controversial sin-bin for Clodagh McCambridge probably cost them the game, but Ronan Murphy’s side announced themselves on the big stage. They’re very young, bar one or two exceptions, and now there is an expectancy there that they can push on. Get it right and this team could be in the All-Ireland picture for the next few years but if they don’t grasp this opportunity then it really will be a waste. An Ulster title against Monaghan, even if Donegal didn’t enter, is another reason to believe that they are on the right path. Jamie Clarke’s younger sister Alex came off the bench and looked very good, so they should have even more attacking stardust in 2021.
4: Mo’s Maghery double up
THE fact that Maghery won the Armagh Championship wasn’t a major surprise, they have, after all, been considered number two in the county over the last five or six years. Reports, however, suggested that things were not going well in the early part of the season but once championship came around they battled their way to the club’s second title after their maiden win in 2016. Aidan Forker once again proved that he is one of the best footballers in the county while others like Brian Fox and Ciaran Higgins looked really good under Finnian Moriarty. They hit four goals in a county final win over Crossmaglen, and the fact that the victory came against their rivals would have made it all the more special. Armagh football has long been dominated by one team, but three teams have won the title in the last five years so maybe some normality is returning. Cross will be determined to reassert their dominance in 2021, and they will always be favourites.
5: Redemption for Armagh camogs
AFTER losing the 2016 final to Carlow at Croke Park, Armagh were favourites to make amends when they met Cavan in the All-Ireland Premier Junior final at Kingspan Breffni. In the opening exchanges it looked like more heartache was on the way. Cavan were sharper and their physicality seemed to be unsettling the Orchard county. Slowly but surely they got back into the game, mainly due to the influence of Ciara Donnelly while her younger sister Leanne was also very good. Ciara Donnelly’s 13 points were crucial as they side earned a 0-19 to 3-7 win. The win was overshadowed by some claims of stupid chanting in the changing room afterwards and although the footage is disputed by some ,Armagh Camogie have apologised, but the main thing is that the side got over the final hurdle and the sport received a real boost.