High flying Orchard out to continue winning form

By Shaun Casey

KERRY prolonged Armagh’s wait for Division One football by 12 months when they overcame the Orchard County in the 2022 Division Two league final to earn promotion to the top flight, while they also ended Armagh’s involvement in the championship that same year.

Fast forward to 2024 and they are the only two teams yet to taste defeat in the top tier, with Armagh winning all four of their opening round fixtures while Kerry won their first three before drawing with Mayo in the last round.

While Armagh’s attacking force usually catches the headlines, with the likes of Aimee Mackin, Kelly Mallon and Aoife McCoy all starring of late, Kerry’s solid defensive work has been thoroughly impressive.

The Kingdom have kept three clean sheets, with the concession of two goals against Waterford in round two the only blot on their record.

“They’re the National League champions, they’ve been in the last two All-Ireland finals, to me that obviously shows the calibre of players that they have,” said Armagh boss Greg McGonigle, looking ahead to Sunday’s game.

“For us to win the game on Sunday, we’ll possibly have to hit a major. The big thing for us, we got two goals against Waterford, two the last day against Meath and one against Cork so the only time that we didn’t get a goal was against Galway.

“We’d be confident that we have the firepower to try and hit the back of the net but at the same time we don’t want to be giving goals away at the far side. We’ve been decent that way so far, we’ve had two clean sheets in our last two games against Meath and Galway.

“We’ll be trying to build on that now this weekend but also have an attacking threat as well because we need to be racking up the scores.”

It’s been an exciting and somewhat surprising start to Armagh’s first Division One campaign since 2017, winning all
four of their outings, while Kerry are also unbeaten, so something will have to give this weekend
at the BOX-IT Athletic

“We’re delighted to have four wins out of four,” added the Derry native.

“The main objective when you come up to Division One is to retain your status first and foremost so that’s mathematically more or less secured.

“We’re looking forward now as a group, we’ve won four so can we go and win five? That’s where we’re at right now. It’s Kerry at home, they’re unbeaten as well and we know how strong of a side they are.

“We were really disappointed with the Galway performance (in round three) and that was the big thing that we went after against Meath, to try and
have more of an attacking shape as well as being good defensively.

“We’re obviously early doors in terms of what we’re looking from the group but in fairness to the panel of 37 players, they are giving it everything they can, and we can’t ask for much more than that.”

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