‘If not now, then when?’ Time has come for Armagh to deliver says Paddy Burns

Armagh hope for second time lucky against Donegal in Ulster Senior Championship final

Paddy Burns (right) is one of a number of injured Armagh players who will miss Saturday's clash with Donegal. Pic Philip Walsh.
Paddy Burns missed last season's Ulster final because of injury. Pic Philip Walsh.

PADDY Burns puts it very matter-of-factly: “If not now, then when?” replies the Armagh defender when he is asked if the Orchard County’s time will come on Sunday.

Burns missed last year’s well-documented Ulster final near miss through injury but he was back in the team for the equally well-documented penalty shootout loss to Monaghan. He’s been through the near misses and heard all the hard luck stories.

“You always assume that it’s your time” says Burns.

“Some of us are getting that bit older: I’m 31, some of the key players like Rory Grugan is 32-ish, (Aidan) Forker is around that and ‘Soupy’ (Stefan) Campbell…

“We have definitely knocked on the door a fair few times and we are getting to the point where it is time we did something but all we can do is our best on the day.

“We have come up against some great teams and some great performances over the last four or five years that have put us out by the odd point or penalties here and there.

“We will just go out and give it our all to ensure this is our time. On the day we will just see what happens but we are definitely hopeful that we can do it.”

Armagh's Kieran McGeeney at the start of  the Ulster GAA Senior Football Championship Semi- Final between Armagh and Down  at St Tiernach's  Park, Clones on 04-27-2024. Pic Philip Walsh
Kieran McGeeney has guided Armagh to back-to-back Ulster finals. Pic Philip Walsh

Donegal have been regular Ulster Championship winners since Armagh last got their hands on the Anglo-Celt in 2008. Sunday’s is their 11th final in 14 seasons but they haven’t won an Ulster title since 2019 and lost deciders in 2020 and 2022. There’ll be no lack of hunger in the Donegal ranks says Burns.

“It’s a difficult animal we are coming up against,” he adds.

“The game isn’t going to go your way all the time so you have to be able to respond whenever they have their purple patch.

“No team is going to go 70-minutes without having a good spell, so you just have go in expecting that knowing that you have to try and limit how effective it is when they have it and respond whenever that is over and it’s our time to go.”

What can supporters expect on Sunday? Both counties have scoring forwards and can play front-foot attacking football but Armagh struggled with Down’s defensive system and Donegal could adopt similar tactics.

Burns says the days of the “straight shoot-out” are long gone.

“I don’t even think it is really relevant, but if they are willing to agree to it, we will do a shoot-out for the craic,” he added.

“If you look at our team, we have some of the best forwards around, I think. I would be willing to say, pound for pound we have some of the best forwards in the country.”

None of Armagh’s starting front six scored from open play against Down but Burns is confident there’s better to come on Sunday.

“Some of them had a bad weekend, that happens, but we still found a way to win,” he said.

“Donegal are the same, they have (Oisin) Gallen, (Ciaran) Thompson, (Paddy) McBrearty… They have plenty of good forwards

“I don’t want to say who would win in a great shoot-out, but I would say people would enjoy watching it.”