Orchard County developing winning culture

By Shaun Casey

MAKING it out of the group stages and reaching the Tier One competition will be Armagh’s aim says coach Stefan Forker as they get their Ulster Championship campaign underway against Antrim this weekend.

The Orchard County, managed by 2002 All-Ireland winner Aidan O’Rourke, host the Saffrons in the opening round but face away day trips to both Cavan and Derry in the following rounds.

Armagh will be big favourites to overcome Antrim having already hammered the same opposition in a recent league game. O’Rourke’s youngsters held Antrim scoreless in the first half and ran out comfortable 7-16 to 0-2 winners.

And Forker, an Ulster Minor winner with Armagh in 2005, says they want to win every game. “We’re going out to win every game, we’re in the group of four so we’ll have three games, and I probably would have liked the group of five to be honest, but we’ll take what we get.

“We have Antrim up first this weekend, so we’ll focus on it and then we’ll move on to Cavan and then Derry in Owenbeg in the last game. We’ll take it all week by week and alter whatever it is we need to alter and change what we need to change.

“We want to be pushing to be at the top of the group to be in an Ulster semi-final and hopefully an Ulster final, we want to go that route.”

Armagh have already bagged some silverware as they were crowned Ulster League Shield champions last weekend with a six-point victory over Tyrone in Crossmaglen, although there’s still plenty of improvements to make.

The Orchard County stormed into a 10-point lead by the time the short whistle sounded, with Eoin Duffy’s goal just before the break proving a key score, but they failed to register another score until the 28th minute of the second period.

While Forker and the management team were delighted to get a trophy, the performance wasn’t up to scratch, and they know they’ll have to improve things as they head straight into the championship.

“It’s always nice to get a bit of silverware,” added the Maghery clubman. “We were delighted with the first half performance, maybe not so much the second half performance but it was a solid league campaign with a wee blip against Down, but we finished it off well.

“It was a very good performance, and you have to give that to them but a two or three per cent drop off from everybody adds up and that showed but we needed to keep the scoreboard ticking over and we had chances to do that, but we didn’t take them.

“It materialised that we didn’t get a (second half) point until the last 10 minutes but it’s something to work on for next week in the championship.

“The championship is coming thick and fast and we’re priming the boys, they’re in good shape so we’ll look at Antrim again and prepare again for next week.”

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