Nevin confident about Rackard prospects

By Niall Gartland

ARMAGH hurling captain Tiarnan Nevin sees no reason why they should limit their ambitions in their ongoing Nickey Rackard Cup campaign.

They picked up their first win at the second time of asking last weekend with a dramatic one-point victory over Louth following their opening day defeat to Donegal.

They’re now set for Sunday’s trip to Roscommon – a team whom they played three times last year, losing twice and winning once, but it’s their first encounter in 2024 as they operated in different divisions in the league.

Roscommon will probably be narrow favourites as it’s been a sticky enough season so far for Armagh, but they’ll take big confidence from their win over Louth last weekend.

Nevin commented: “Roscommon are a very good team. They’ve a lot of very good hurlers who are well able to run at you and take their scores. They played in Division 2B this year, we played in 3A, so they’ve been exposed to teams of a higher standard. We’ve played them a number of times in the last few years and there hasn’t been an easy game, but we have had some good performances and results against them so we’ll take confidence from that.

“They have physically big players who can win their own ball and take their scores if they’re given time and space to do so. They particularly like to flood the forwards with runners from deep so it’ll be about tracking runners and working extremely hard.

“We’ll correct a few things from our first two games and focus on a consistent performance for the full 70 minutes against Roscommon and hopefully the result will follow.”

Armagh have been a familiar presence on Nickey Rackard Cup final day, playing in seven finals and winning the title twice since the competition started back in 2005. However, they haven’t been in the final since 2019 and they’ve undergone a major transition in personnel in recent seasons. That aside, Nevin is confident that they can make their mark in the competition.

“The Nicky Rackard, I believe, is incredibly important, and the rest of the players and management believe so too. There are teams right off the bat who you would say are favourites to win it outright, and we’re probably not in most people’s conversation in that regard. But we have good belief in our squad.

“We aren’t playing every week to make up numbers, we want to win as many games as we can and make the final in Croke Park. That’s been our goal.

“Karl (McKeegan, manager) has said before that leagues are for playing in and championships are for winning, and that’s our focus for this competition.”

The Orchard County managed to avoid relegation to Division Four in the league, especially as various lads have been unavailable for selection. Nevin doesn’t believe it’s overly affected the side, however.

“Our panel is relatively small due to injuries and some lads stepping away due to family and work commitments and that’s fine, I think every team goes through the same difficulties every season.

“It does bring its difficulties, say for in-house matches and that, but you adapt and work the best you can. I think we have a few lads returning to training this week after completing their rehab so that’ll obviously be a welcome boost for the remainder of the campaign.”

“We’re still working extremely hard in trainins and putting in decent performances on the pitch so the smaller more dedicated panel I’d say hasn’t been a massive hindrance on balance.

“We thankfully did well enough to stay in the new Division Three league for next season. I think our character was tested in a massive way on the last day against Louth. It was a must-win game and in fairness to the lads we all stood up on the day so that’s massive for Armagh hurling for next year. We want to be playing good teams as often as possible to develop hurling in the county as much as possible.”

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