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We’ve got four huge games in the Football Championship on Saturday and Sunday, but I believe this will be the game of the weekend. There’ll be huge interest in this match down here in the Kingdom as two of our fellow Kerryman are involved in the opposing backroom teams.
In Donie Buckley, Monaghan have one of the best defensive coaches I’ve ever worked under as a player. Meanwhile, Armagh have Kieran Donaghy, who I played with for years in the Kerry set-up. I can already see his influence rub off on Armagh, especially in the way their forwards are playing.
I also believe both of those counties will have looked at the teams left in the Ulster Championship, and whoever wins on Sunday, will fancy themselves to win their provincial title if they get to the final. That, of course, gets them to an All-Ireland semi-final as well.
Saturday 16:00 – Armagh v Monaghan
Sky Sports Arena
Looking at Armagh, they were very unlucky in the National League not to qualify for the semi-finals. Their attackers seem to be playing with much more fluency these days and under the stewardship of Kieran McGeeney and his fresh backroom team, Armagh just seem to be expressing themselves a lot more this season. They’ll have absolutely no fear of Monaghan on Saturday.
Monaghan are a dogged team though, and consistently push the big guns in the Championship to the limit. They are always there-or-thereabouts in Ulster under the management of Seamus ‘Banty’ McEnaney. But, their chances all hinge on whether star forward Conor McManus has recovered enough from a thigh injury to make it onto the field on Saturday.
One of the only good things about these matches because of Covid, is it seems to have thrown the entire game on its head. Defensive football seems to be on its way out and the scores have been flowing – just look at Donegal v Derry last week for the evidence of that.
If Monaghan are to beat Armagh here, they’ll have to man-mark Rian O’Neill and Rory Grugan. But, I do fancy this to be a draw at the end of the 70 minutes. The League game between these two was a very nip-and-tuck affair and I wouldn’t expect either county to go full throttle at the start of the game, because they know they might need to keep something in the tank for extra-time and even penalties, if they are required.
I definitely believe will see a green flag on Saturday. Antrim were able to frustrate Armagh on their last outing for much of the first half, but once the Orchard County got a grip of the game in the second period the goals flowed. Rory Grugan opened the floodgates that day and I fancy them to repeat the trick here. He is always seems on the end of balls into forwards, as Armagh target him often.
On the Monaghan side of the house, if Conor McManus starts, you really couldn’t pick anyone else to net the back of the net for them. But, with doubts over his fitness, I’m going with Grugan here.
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