Armagh v Down: ‘We didn’t show up against them last year,’ says Daniel Guinness

Neighbours meet again a year on after Armagh dominated Ulster Championship semi-final

Daniel Guinness looks on enviously as Rian O'Neill of Armagh celebrates after scoring his side's fourth goal last year. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Daniel Guinness looks on enviously as Rian O'Neill of Armagh celebrates after scoring his side's fourth goal last year. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile (Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

FRUSTRATION levels rose towards boiling point as the minutes crawled by and Armagh pulled further and further ahead of Down at Clones last year.

The Orchardmen led by four at the break but Ciaran Mackin scored their third goal early in the second half and the Mournemen were never coming back from there.

Rian O’Neill popped the cherry on the cake (from an Armagh point of view) when he cut inside Niall Kane and slotted in the fourth goal.

Afterwards, the Crossmaglen forward danced a jig in celebration and Daniel Guinness looked enviously over his shoulder as O’Neill enjoyed his moment and the Orchard fans celebrated another green flag being raised,

There were 10 points in it when the end finally came and that flattered Down who were second best all over the field.

Losing to their neighbours like that stung a competitor like Guinness more than most but the wheel keeps on turning and on Saturday evening the Carryduff clubman and his team-mates get the chance to set the record straight and show what they’re really made of when they face Armagh again in a re-run of last year’s semi-final.

“We didn’t perform,” said Guinness of last year’s meeting.

“We didn’t show up against them last year.”

Down vs Antrim    3  .jpg
Down beat Antrim by four points in their Ulster Championship opener (seamus loughran)

The omens going into Saturday’s meeting aren’t that promising for Down. Both counties lost League finals – Down beaten by Westmeath in Division Three, Armagh by Donegal in Division Two – but they’ve had contrasting performances in their Ulster Championship wins since.

Armagh routed Fermanagh in their quarter-final. Once again they had the game won by the interval and, although the Ernemen did salvage pride in the second half, Armagh cantered home to win by 11 points at Brewster Park.

Meanwhile, Down huffed and puffed but found no fluency in their last eight meeting with Antrim. Guinness scored two second half points – both created by Odhran Murdock – and they were timely because the Saffrons pushed Down all the way at Páirc Esler.

Down got over the line by four points in the end but Guinness said their performance showed they had “a huge amount of work to do” ahead of their quarter-final at Clones.

“We made hard work of it – we certainly weren’t at our best and it looked like there was a bit of a hangover there from the League final but at least we got over the line,” he said.

“We knew what Antrim were going to bring and Ulster Championship games are never won too easy.

“We tried to work on keeping the scoreboard ticking over – we didn’t do it as well as we would have liked – and there were a few too many turnover, especially inside their 45. A win is a win, but we’ve a huge amount of work to do.”

Manager Conor Laverty said his team had played “below our standard” against the Saffrons but the bottom line was that Down won the game and go into this weekend’s semi-final under the radar with nothing expected of them.

“We’re not too happy with how we played,” added Guinness.

“But we always knew it was going to be a tough game and we got the result in the end and got into the semi-final which is all we could ask for.”