NINE weeks after their last competitive fixture, and five weeks after Longford and Westmeath fired the first shots in the 2008 football championship, Armagh will finally get the chance to begin their All-Ireland challenge against Cavan in Breffni Park on Sunday.
The last of the Ulster counties to get their teeth into their opening fixture, it was little surprise to find that manager Peter McDonnell was less than happy with the fixture list yesterday.
The Armagh man pointed to “a nonsensical and scandalous situation” whereby counties were deprived of college players for January competitions and league games due to college fixtures and then asked to lay idle for two months approaching the championship season.
“A McKenna Cup would have been quite helpful a month ago (when it used to be played),” he added. “We have had two months of nothing.”
“It hasn’t been easy, two months without competitive football. We have had a couple of challenge games (versus Louth and Dublin) which didn’t really demonstrate the intensity that you would expect in a championship encounter.”
McDonnell goes into the weekend’s tie with concerns over Oisín McConville (back) and Tony Kernan (hamstring) and they will face a Cavan side determined to shut up shop, according to their manager Donal Keogan.
The blanket defence has been a feature of the championship so far.
“In Ulster it is blanket defence. That seems to be the way to go,” Keogan explained. “It has been one of Armagh’s hallmarks over the year, funnelling lads back and breaking at speed. Maybe that is something we will have to do on Sunday, play Armagh at their own game.
“Even in the Down-Tyrone game, Down went back to playing blanket defence in the second half. I know it is not pretty but Cavan will be looking for a result on Sunday, same as Armagh, and I we will do whatever it takes to get that result.”
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