Ciarán McKeever: Armagh must show killer instinct

They stumbled in Croke Park last year with the winning post in sight, and Ciarán McKeever hopes to see Armagh unveil a new ruthless streak against Donegal on Sunday.

Ciarán McKeever: Armagh must show killer instinct

The Armagh captain, ruled out with a foot injury when the sides met in last year’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final, could only sit and watch as his young team-mates allowed Donegal to wriggle free when they had a major scalp at their mercy. Michael Murphy saved Donegal with a 68th-minute equaliser and within a minute, Paddy McBrearty snatched the winning score, as the relieved Ulster champions somehow emerged victorious, by 1-12 to 1-11.

Killer instinct was a quality Armagh used to possess in spades around a decade ago, and it’s something this new team is having to learn the hard way.

McKeever wants to see it displayed when Armagh host Donegal at the Athletic Grounds in Sunday’s first round Ulster championship tie.

“Last year we were in a great position going into the last 10 minutes, one point up,” recalls McKeever.

“We held that lead for six minutes, we had numerous opportunities to kill the game off and we didn’t take them. Donegal drew level and then they went one up within 30 seconds. It’s something we have chatted about and something that we have to learn from last year if we find ourselves in that position again.”

Armagh earned promotion from Division Three in the spring and the evidence is there to suggest they are closing the gap on the top flight teams.

Having reached the last eight last year, beating Cavan, Tyrone and Meath, taking Monaghan to a replay and losing to All-Ireland finalists Donegal by a point, is proof of that.

The next step has to be to take out a big scalp and up Ulster way, there is none bigger right now than Donegal. McKeever argues it might be more difficult to topple Donegal 12 months on as Armagh had built up a head of steam by the time they met them at Croke Park.

“Last year we went into the game after five or six games on the bounce and we were in really great form.

“There was a buzz about the place, huge momentum. This time it’s different.

“Donegal have a game over them (beating Tyrone) whereas we have been sitting idle for seven weeks, trying to keep a competitive edge.

“So it’s a massive challenge but as a footballer and as any sports person, you always love a challenge.”

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