Sports

A chance for Armagh 'silverware'

Thursday, 15 December 2016

THIS Sunday, at the time of writing, Armagh have the chance to earn some early season silverware through their O'Fiaich Cup Final meeting with Tyrone (throw-in 1.30pm).

It would be a tremendous boost to Kieran McGeeney and his team and to the county in general if they were to dethrone the current holders, Tyrone and lift the O'Fiaich Cup title, named in honour of the much loved Crossmaglen native, Cardinal Tomas.

Games between Armagh and neighbours, Tyrone are always highly competitive and it's always paramount in each camp that they play their strongest team in such a fiercely contested derby.

To do so this year will be a difficult task given that injuries are mounting in both camps plus the added unwanted bonus of a clash with the inter-provincial final between Ulster and Connacht on either Saturday 17th or Sunday 18th (date not confirmed at time of writing).

In that provincial final, Ulster are likely to call on the services of Armagh's Stefan Campbell, (who played against Derry in the semi-final), Charlie Vernon and Tony Kernan. Armagh's injury list or absentees are the more likely factors reducing selection numbers with Kevin Dyas, James Morgan, Ciaran McKeever, Mark Shields, Andrew Murnin, James Morgan, Andy Mallon, Colm Watters, Jamie Clarke, Aaron Findon and Niall Grimley all expected to return by the new year for various reasons.

The show must go on and Kieran McGeeney can put out a strong team from the squad he paraded against Derry. That team could be Paddy Morrison, Shea Heffron, B Donaghy, Paul Hughes, Stephen Sheridan, Ciaran Higgins, Joe McElroy, B Crealey, E Rafferty, Pearse Casey, Rory Grugan, Aidan Forker, Oisin O'Neill, Gavin McParland, and Oisin Maciomhair.

Tyrone are heavily hit as well with Mattie Donnelly injured and 'keeper Niall Morgan, Tiernan McCann, Peter Harte, Conor McAliskey, Niall Sludden, and Mark Bradley set to play for Ulster in the Inter-pro final.

Unlike Armagh, Tyrone have a reserve list almost, if not as good as their first choice team. Players like Mickey O'Neill ('keeper), Ronan O'Neill, Darren McCurry, Cathal McShane, Conor Meyler, Hugh Pat McGeary, Frank Burns, Lee Brennan, and Paudie Hampsey.

Most of these were in action against Louth on Sunday, and Colm Cavanagh, Paudie McNulty and Conor McCann who were injured for the Louth game may return to face Armagh.

It will be no surprise, given the depth of quality that Tyrone have, that the Red Hands will be favourites to retain the O'Fiaich Cup on Sunday. Mickey Harte goes into every game wanting to win so if nothing else Armagh's fledgling squad will learn much from a highly motivated team in a fiercely contested game that will occur on Sunday. Win or lose (the closer the better) will certainly boost Armagh's confidence for the future.

Not so long ago the team were on a par in a level playing field as either Division One or Division Two teams.

That has changed recently and on Sunday the game is between a Division One team and a Division Three team of the 2017 National League.

Still, Armagh have a chance to produce an excellent performance on Sunday and they, still, can lift their first silverware of the season on Sunday. Delivering one or both will augur well for Armagh in the future.

Let's hope for a bumper crowd to add to the atmosphere.

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