The Ulster Championship will be more competitive than ever this year given the straight knock-out format of the Championship. Derry vs Armagh is the second quarter-final on Sunday. The winner of this tie will meet the winner of Donegal vs Tyrone a fortnite after.
Armagh had the more successful league campaign out of these two teams. They earned promotion to Division 1 for the first time since 2012 by beating Clare last weekend.
Oisin O’Neill said that promotion was a huge goal for the team.
“We never talked about the Championship and even since we came back, we haven’t spoken about Derry once. These two games (against Roscommon and Clare) are all that we were focused on and we didn’t get the job done last week but we did this week.”
The win gives Armagh some much-needed momentum going into the most competitive of all the Provincial Championships. They would have perhaps learned more from the defeat to Roscommon than from the win against Clare. Either way, Kieran McGeeney will be delighted to have two games under the belt before heading into this one.
Oakleaves starting to Blossom?
Meanwhile, Derry made an impressive return to action and did all in their power to threaten the promotion places in Division 3. However, they just missed out thanks to their head-to-head record with Down. Firstly, a win at home to Longford marked a successful return to action. Secondly, Derry showed they weren’t just heading into the Championship to take part with a two-point on the road to Offaly.
Rory Gallagher has acknowledged that the lockdown was perhaps beneficial to his squad as it allowed injuries to heal. As a result, Gallagher will have a full squad at his disposal for the Armagh game with the sole exception of Karl McCaigue. Thankfully, the return of Conor Glass from the AFL has significantly strengthened the spine of the Derry team.
After last year’s disappointing Championship that ended in round 2 of the qualifiers, Derry are out to prove that they are able to challenge in Ulster. But, they haven’t been in a final since 2011 and are still on the upward curve.
In contrast, Armagh were unlucky to lose out in the Ulster semi-final replay to Cavan last year. A win over Monaghan was a big way to recover. But, Mayo eliminated them in the following round after a thrilling contest.
The home side are 15/8 outsiders and the Orchard county are 8/15 with Paddy Power. A draw is 15/2.
The game is live on BBC Northern Ireland.
Ulster Football Championship Quarter-Final: Derry vs Armagh, Sunday, November 1st, 16:00 (Celtic Park).
— Ulster GAA (@UlsterGAA) October 27, 2020