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Antrim vs Armagh: Five things we learnt

Findon is looking the real deal

Aaron Findon has really made his mark in county football, the St Peter’s man, with his impressive 6’ 4” stature, has one commanding presence in the middle of the park. Aged just 21, he looks like a player who has been playing at the very highest level for many years.

The midfield positions concerned many Armagh in recent years, they really failed to fill the void left by Paul McGrane, John Toal and Philip Loughran who came in for Toal in the 2003 season and earned a call-up to International Rules team.

Without meaning to be ungrateful to the players who have played in midfield in recent years like Kieran Toner, James Lavery and Stephen Harrold, as these men have put in some terrific performances and served their county well. But they have been quite unfortunate with injuries, meaning Armagh have been unable to form a stable and powerful midfield partnership.Findon’s amazing start to his inter-county career will be welcomed by McGeeney, and he is sure to be an important part of the new managers plans. The question that needs to be answered is who will be wearing the number 9 jersey beside him.

Sweeping role worked well for Jamie

When the Armagh team was announced earlier in the week, social media and online forums exploded. Jamie Clarke in half back? Why is Jamie listed as number 7, surely he won’t play there! What’s McGeeney thinking, he’ll be wasted out there. Turns out, it actually worked pretty well and many of those questions regarding his role were answered.

Armagh’s star man played just behind the midfield line, he helped his defence when required and put in some solid tackles early on, backing up McGeeney’s claims that he is one of the best tacklers in the squad.

When Armagh went on the attack he would offer his support and contributed with some stunning passes, showing great vision and accuracy. Clarke probably would have been named man of the match if he didn’t receive a red card in the 63rd minute, but people do like to debate, and one strong performance against Antrim in the Dr McKenna Cup won’t change everybody’s opinion on the matter.

Plenty of places up for grabs

When speaking after the game, McGeeney reiterated that he is not using the Dr McKenna Cup as trial tournament and that those putting in the best shifts in training and matches would be rewarded with starting roles:

It’s about the people who are training hard and pushing for positions, If your pushing hard and playing well you’ll get your place.”

This approach will be great for the younger players coming through, and it will be interesting to compare the starting 15 in this season’s Championship opener to the side that lined out against Donegal at Croke Park last year.

The number one spot is there to be claimed, Dromintee’s Philip McEvoy was the starting keeper last season, but he will have to work to reclaim that spot as there currently six stoppers training with the squad. In defence, Mark McConville and Cullyhanna’s Michael Murray have done no harm to their statuses so far.

Ballymacnab’s Gavin McParland has been welcomed back into the squad and will be pushing to get more minutes on the field. Oisin Mac Iomhair had a solid game yesterday and scored the goal that really shattered Antrim, and Micheal McKenna has carried his club form straight on to inter-county level. Other names like Andrew Murnin and Ciaron O’Hanlon may also get their chance to shine, Murnin is currently injured and O’Hanlon is representing Queen’s University in the Dr McKenna Cup.

Could be another shot at Tyrone on the cards

This high scoring victory was exactly what Armagh needed in their fight for that fourth semi-final spot. The top three teams will automatically qualify and the team that finishes with the highest scoring average between the those who finish second will make the semis.

If Armagh can get a large victory over St Mary’s on Wednesday at the Athletic Grounds, they could be presented with a chance to get revenge over Tyrone for last week’s defeat. Tyrone are on course for their fourth consecutive Dr McKenna Cup, after overcoming St Mary’s which a much changed side.

Many fans would welcome a repeat of the opening clash, particularly those who gave up on getting access to last week’s match after waiting in the queues outside.

Creggan is one cold little place

Armagh supporters would have been running straight for their kettle after arriving home from yesterday’s match in Creggan. The Kickhams Creggan GAC ground is situated in a rural area just outside Randalstown and close to Lough Neagh which was visible from certain areas of the pitch.

The tricky journey and the freezing winds didn’t hold back the Armagh support, the official attendance was 1650, and the majority of that crowd was from the Orchard county. The support was great to see, and the trip paid off as those in attendance got to witness McGeeney’s first victory as Armagh manager.

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