By Alan Rodgers
ALL the permutations surrounding relegation or deciding the National League final pairing will only be secondary to the fact that this latest clash of Tyrone against Armagh carries massive significance for both counties.
Two wins on the trot mean that the Red Hands enter this round seven game in buoyant mood. Victory over Monaghan last Sunday has all but secured their survival, leaving them free to concentrate on ending the league campaign on a high note.
Add in the intense rivalry between the counties, and the fact that Armagh emphatically held sway in 2022, and it’s clear why Tyrone will be going all out for victory at Healy Park.
Then, there’s the added incentive of knowing that the Orchard County can take no chances as a loss here and Monaghan victory away to Mayo would leave the Kieran McGeeney-managed side facing Division Two football in 2024.
Armagh, under the management of their former All-Ireland winning captain, have been making impressive strides in recent seasons. An All-Ireland quarter-final appearance last year confirmed their progress, and it has been maintained to a large extent during this league campaign.
As a result, Tyrone will be anxious to prove their worth here and show that they too are firmly back on track. Those wins over Kerry and Monaghan have transformed them, and they’ll be anxious to maintain the momentum ahead of next month’s Ulster championship quarter-final against Monaghan.
But this Red Hand side is beginning to move a whole lot better. Among those starring is Edendork’s Conn Kilpatrick’s whose midfield performances alongside Brian Kennedy are becoming increasingly effective.
“It’s another battle between two Ulster teams. We have won every game at Healy Park this year in the league and we’re looking to continue that. But we know the task that is ahead of us,” he said.
“They punished us well last year in the championship and we will have to regroup, put a few things together in training and look forward to the match.
“We know where everybody is sitting on the table. We badly needed the win over Monaghan, but we’re not out of the gate ourselves yet.
“So we’ll go into this game, prepare well and look forward to Armagh coming to Omagh. They have definitely come up through the ranks in the last couple of years. They have put it up to us as well, they have top players, a great management team behind them and we know the calibre of players they have and what damage they can do if we let them.”
Games between the two counties are always inevitably closely contested. But there’s no doubting the relief within the ranks of the Tyrone team that they followed the big win over Kerry with another comprehensive victory against Monaghan in Clones.
“We had a good win against Kerry two weeks ago and there’s still things to improve on,” Kilpatrick continued.
“We haven’t put wins back-to-back like that in a while and it’s just great for the group to get a performance.”