Sunday 26 March 2017

It's all hurling talk in Armagh now - McCormack

Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

ARMAGH hurling captain Paul McCormack waited a long time for days like Sunday's stunning win over Down in the Ulster championship.

Since first pitching up with the Orchard County hurlers in the winter of 1997, he's known a lot more bad days than good.

Occasions such as the 16-point defeat to the Mourne men in the Christy Ring Cup a few weeks ago and last year's 27-point Ulster championship drubbing by the same opponents were all recalled amid the celebrations on Sunday as they realised just how far they had come since then.

And in difficult conditions at Casement Park, Armagh pulled off the major upset of the weekend's action to reach the Ulster final for the first time since 1946.

"It was one of those days where things went well for us and anything that could have gone wrong for Down did," said the 31-year-old, who teaches in St Pat's in Armagh city.

"The weather was a great leveller and as the game went on our lads started to believe more and more. The timing of the competition helped us too because the Christy Ring would probably be the main competition for both teams, but we'll take this."

Down native Ruairi McGrattan -- who threw his lot in with the Orchard this year -- was among Armagh's better players on the day, but McCormack, who was a member of the 2002 All-Ireland SFC panel which won the county's first Sam Maguire, believes there are sure signs of steady progress in the development of hurling in the county.

Last year, his club Keady became the first side from outside Antrim, Derry and Down to contest the Ulster club SHC final.

"It is all hurling talk right now in Armagh and the young players coming through now are starting to believe that they are as good as any of the other Ulster counties," he said. "That's a confidence that we didn't have coming through at their age.

"Conor Corvan scored the winning point for us. He was minor last year but will have played in an Ulster final at minor, U-21 and senior level in a couple of years, which would have been unthinkable not so long ago."

The Ulster final has been pushed back to July 3 in case Antrim's Liam MacCarthy qualifier against Westmeath needs a replay and the Saffrons will be huge favourites.

McCormack added: "We know we're up against it. It'd be different maybe if their championship was open and they had broken up and gone back to their clubs but they haven't.

"We just want to go and give a good account of ourselves and take it from there."

Irish Independent

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