Armagh all set for McKenna Cup opener with Tyrone

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney
Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney

New Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney won’t have the luxury of employing the services of a number of rookies when Tyrone visit the Athletic Grounds on Sunday for the Doctor McKenna Cup season opener.

The former All-Ireland winning captain, who has been carrying a big squad over the closed season, will have to line out an experienced side on Sunday against Mickey Harte’s Red Hands who have a good record in the competition.

Although Armagh would be strong favourites to win pending group games against Antrim and St Mary’s Teacher Training College, they would be keen to beat Tyrone on Sunday who had a huge win over the Orchard men last season in the corresponding fixture played in Omagh.

In last summers decent Championship run Armagh beat Tyrone with many pundits suggesting Paul Grimley’s team had bullied and out muscled a young home side who have in the interim period embarked on a rigorous strength and conditioning regime.

Mickey Harte announced his panel last week which includes the talented Kyle Cooney, Justin McMahon, Sean and Colm Kavanagh, Mark Donnelly and Peter Harte.

Many Armagh supporters are still coming to terms with the fact Aaron Kernan has stepped down from county football at the age of 30. The Rangers player, who had been one of he best of his generation, recently announced his retirement along with Portadown man Brian Mallon. Other players to have stepped down are Johnny Hanratty, Kyle Carragher, Shay Heffron and Paul McKeown.

McGeeney’s side showed progress last season with the successful return of Andy Mallon, St Peter’s player Aaron Findon nailed down a starting place and Clans man Stefan Campbell was one of the success stories from the Championship campaign.

A crowd of 10,000 plus is expected for what should be an enthralling encounter, Mickey Harte’s team may have more to prove this season, but unlike Armagh they will benefit from playing in a higher Division than their Ulster opponents.