Marsden: Armagh need to deliver

By Shaun Casey

FORMER Armagh attacker Diarmaid Marsden believes that this Sunday, his county will finally end their long wait for a provincial crown when they take on Jim McGuinness’ Donegal in Clones.

The Orchard County haven’t claimed the Anglo Celt since 2008, when they dominated Ulster with seven titles in ten seasons stretching back to 1999. That heartache was only enhanced 12 months ago when Derry defeated Armagh in the decider via a penalty shootout.

And having come through the easy side of the draw, where they hammered Fermanagh and edged rivals Down, Marsden feels the time is right for Armagh to end their provincial drought.

“I think it’s Armagh’s time, I do,” Marsden told the Gaelic Lives podcast. “But there’s no medals or plaudits handed out before the game starts. The boys need to deliver, they know what’s expected of them, they know what they’re going to face.

“It’s a rejuvenated Donegal team compared to last year (when they lost to Down in the first round). They know that they’re going to be coming up with a team as fit as them, as organised as them, so it’s going to come down to fine margins, but I hope both teams have a go at it.

“If they do, I just feel Armagh, with everything that’s built up over the last 15 years, should have enough inside them to get the result and to take the cup home. I’m just going to call it for Armagh with one or two points to spare.”

While many suggest that the provincial championships have had their day and don’t fit into the condensed season, Marsden still feels strongly about the Ulster Championship and what it means to the nine northern counties.

The Clan na Gael clubman won six Ulster titles as a player and helped Armagh end a 17-year wait for a provincial crown in 1999. He still believes that medal means a lot.

“It’s been so long since 2008, so I’m sure the lads will be treasuring getting to a final but also really doing their damnedest to get some silverware because it’s valued in Ulster.

“I know there’s a lot of flak about the provincial championships in other provinces, but the Ulster Championship still has a place and still is treasured,” added Marsden, an All-Star winner at wing half-forward in 1999.

“You see the Derry teams in the last couple of years and right through to Tyrone and Donegal and Monaghan over the last 10 or 15 years, all delighted to win Ulster.

“Some use it as a springboard to go on for an All-Ireland campaign and others say you’ve had too many tough battles, so it’s getting that balance right.

“I’d be of the opinion that it can prepare you well for an All-Ireland crack as long as you come out of it injury-free. You’re dealing with tight matches and knowing how to win close matches. The Ulster Championship is always going to be special for a few years yet.”

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