Preview of the Allianz National Football League Division 1 clash between Armagh and Mayo
Two of the unbeaten teams in Divsion 1 will meet on Saturday night in the Morgan Athletic Grounds with the clash of Armagh and Mayo. Ironically, although both sides are unbeaten, they still have only amassed a single victory apiece. Armagh drew with Cork on the first day of term, while Mayo had that unforgettable abandoned match against Dublin.
This weekend both sides will undoubtedly be looking to extend their unbeaten runs as they seek those valuable places in the league semi-finals. Despite the massive success that Crossmaglen Rangers have enjoyed in the club championships, Armagh have slipped down the Northern pecking order in recent years but there are signs that there are green shoots of recovery.
They remain extremely difficult to break and are one of the hardest working teams in the country. When it is called for, they possess the necessary flair to get the job done as they showed on their recent visit to Tralee where they gave the Kingdom a bit of a lesson.
They are still without all their Crossmaglen players and Steven McDonnell has yet to return to the panel. They are also without youthful corner-forward, Eugene McVerry who suffered a dislocated elbow while on duty with the county Under 21s last weekend. However, Malachy Mackin is free to play after having his suspension overturned but Ciaran McKeever is out for this game.
Mayo are the great pretenders of the GAA, often threatening to bring Sam Maguire back to the county, only to fail at the final hurdle. This year, like any year, has been greeted with a great sense of anticipation by Mayo supporters and this was only added to by their comfortable six point win in Portlaoise in the opening week.
For a long period of the half they played against Dublin, they certainly looked a level below the All-Ireland champions, but perhaps they will have learned from that game and certainly, it didn’t cost them anything.
Mayo manager, James Horan has already stated that he would love to win the league and is expected to have a full squad to choose from, meaning that Conor Mortimer will continue his return from a cruciate ligament injury while all-star, Andy Moran may get a chance to make his first start since breaking his leg last year.
There may not be much between the teams at the end of the game but I would expect the more streetwise Armagh side to shade it.