Wednesday 18 September 2019

McConville backs Monaghan for Ulster and stresses need for Armagh to deliver rare victory

Oisin McConville. Photo: Sportsfile
Oisin McConville. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Monaghan can deliver a third Ulster title in six years and deny "one-dimensional" Tyrone their first ever three-in-a-row in the province, former Armagh footballer Oisín McConville believes.

Ulster's primary heavyweights meet in a much anticipated Ulster quarter-final in Omagh on Sunday with McConville convinced the winners will claim provincial honours.

He also feels Armagh are improving sufficiently to win a first Ulster Championship match since 2014 and can improve on a miserable provincial record that has yielded just three wins and a draw in the 13 games they have played since their last title in 2008. But McConville is damning in his assessment of the quality of his own province.

"The last three years in Ulster has been a huge disappointment. The quality of football, people have turned off in their droves.

"Tyrone-Monaghan is a massive game, akin to Mayo and Galway, that's how big it is. Whoever comes out of that will be Ulster champions. They have a nice pathway to the latter stages of the championship. But whoever loses that has got a dogfight on their hands. I fancy Monaghan. They've used a huge amount of players (in the league). Malachy O'Rourke is the one manager who has immediately reacted to the fact that he is going to need a squad as the year goes on," said McConville.

"Tyrone are probably now as one-dimensional as they have ever been. They still have super players, they still can tear teams apart as they did when walking through Ulster last year. They have no real outlet now, no physicality up front because Seán Cavanagh is gone."

McConville feels Armagh lost ground with their failure to come out of Division 3 in 2017.

They made no mistake this time but the delay has cost them 12 months in development, says the former All-Ireland winner at club and county level, speaking at the recent launch of RTé's Championship coverage.

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"Armagh have definitely made progress. It's just a pity we didn't get out of Division 3 last year.

"That would have made a huge difference to us seeing what we are like at that higher standard. I think that has come back and bit us in the ass big time. Armagh expected to beat Down in the championship last year. Down just had that little bit too much quality and you could see that they were playing at a slightly higher level than what Armagh were.

"There's a real opportunity to win a game in Ulster, that would be a major start which they haven't done in three years so you don't want that extending any further. Fermanagh and Armagh seem really evenly matched. There doesn't seem to be much between them but again, it's a game that you're looking at and thinking that Armagh can realistically win."

McConvillet feels Armagh have played "really attractive football" up to now but are faced with a "quandary" on the cusp of a championship campaign.

"The unfortunate thing about playing attractive football is that it's nearly like the Premiership and the Championship, there's a huge difference in trying to play that attractive football when you get up a division or you start playing championship. That's where the problem lies, do you stick or do you twist?" he asked.

"Do you continue to do what you have done that has worked for you all year or do you go slightly more defensive and hope to hold the likes of Monaghan or Tyrone if you are playing them."

Winning an Ulster Championship game and making Super Eights would represent further progress for Armagh but making that elite group in July would really challenge them, he feels.

"I fear for teams like Armagh who don't have the squads of others because I think that is really going to stretch them."

But he has emphasised how winning an Ulster Championship match is their biggest priority for the season.

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