Acid test for Armagh

The number of All Star awards won by Donegal players of the past number of years compared to Armagh may best sum up the gap between the sides since the Orchard County picked up their last provincial crown back in 2008.

The current Ulster Champions will travel to the Athletic Grounds on Sunday with a tough preliminary round encounter win over Tyrone under their belt, and secure in the knowledge their three Ulster titles won in four years will give them the confidence to handle any threat posed by Kieran McGeeney’s side.

Donegal will travel with 14 All Stars in their line-out which are part of a battle hardened squad who can play with grace or with a physicality to match any form of opponent.

The bookies have installed the Tir Conail men as favourites, but not overwhelmingly so, odds of 4/7 and 7/4 are currently the norm with a possible draw fixed at 13/2.

Meetings between Armagh and Donegal have been infrequent in modern times, the Orchard County’s last provincial title in 2008 was against a Fermanagh side which contained current Donegal boss Rory Gallagher who has maintained the status quo following the departure of Jim McGuinnes.

Armagh beat Donegal in an Ulster Championship opener on their way to winning the All Ireland title back in 2002 on a score line of 1-14 to 1-10, the sides met in the decider back in 1990 on a day when Sarsfields player Shane Skelton was sprung from the bench to score three late points before his side lost by the minimum margin.

Kieran McGeeney’s side have been steadily building a head of steam as they prepare for Sunday’s game.

The fact that they spent the past season in Division 3 will have no bearing on the outcome of this provincial tie.

The Armagh squad are carrying very few injuries and will be well prepared by their management team, but with their opponents having already played a tough game against Tyrone will Armagh be up to speed to endure a 70 minute onslaught from Rory Gallagher’s side?

A single point could separate the teams either way, the Athletic Grounds which holds 19,000 fans will have its capacity reduced for safety reasons on Sunday, but there will be no easy way for the home side to secure a victory.

Armagh supporters will have to rely on faith and the theory that their side have improved under Kieran McGeeney, as their building continues a visit to Ballybofey for a potential replay looks highly likely.

The action begins at 2.00pm.