McKernan: Armagh camogs want to rise through the ranks


Armagh v Antrim seconds

Saturday, Dunloy, 2pm

By Niall Gartland

ARMAGH camogs have already qualified for the All-Ireland semi-finals, but their joint-manager Jim McKernan will still be hoping they do the business in their final group stage clash against Antrim seconds this weekend.

Finishing top of their group could potentially lead to a ‘better’ draw in the semi-finals, so this isn’t entirely a dead rubber clash, and the Orchard County will also want to maintain their unbeaten run in the competition to date.

They got the better of Antrim seconds in the Ulster Intermediate final earlier in the season on a scoreline of 0-13 to 0-6, but it was something of a surprise that the Saffrons even made the final.

McKernan is a native of Antrim and acknowledges their progress, but at the same time he says his full focus is with Armagh at present.

“Antrim seconds have some great talent and some of their players have already been elevated onto their senior squad. They’re going well but I’m the Armagh manager now and that’s all I deal with. My allegiance is 100 percent with Armagh and that’s where all my efforts are.”

Things are ticking along nicely with Armagh and they’ve already claimed one-sided victories over Limerick, Down and Roscommon in this year’s championship, scoring a combined total of 12 goals across the three matches. On the flipside, however, three of their players have been sidelined by serious injuries.

“We’ve a couple of bad injuries. Hannah Duffy did her cruciate ligament against Antrim and is out for the rest of the year. Ciara Hill did her ankle ligaments and is still out. Corina Doyle, she’s one of our star performers, has fractured her collarbone in two places. They’re three young players and have a big future ahead of them but we just have to get on with it. In general the players who have come in have added plenty of value.”

Armagh have plenty of pedigree in this competition – they won the title two years ago with a deserved win over Cavan before losing last year’s decider to Wexford – but McKernan says they should be aspiring to perform in the Intermediate ranks.

“Definitely, we’ve told them they shouldn’t be playing here. It’s important to get into the Intermediate Championship. Carlow are already holding their own at that level. We beat Carlow well in the League so we know there’s plenty of potential in this team. Playing at Intermediate level is a good goal to have, hopefully it works out and we can take it from there.”

While Armagh have been racking up huge scores, they had to use all their wits to get the better of Antrim seconds in the Ulster final. Thirteen points was enough to run out comfortable victors, but McKernan says he isn’t a big fan of their opponent’s defensive strategy.

“People play different styles and Antrim pack their defence and play a sweeper. It does contain teams but means you tend to neglect the attacking side of things. We like to go on the offensive but it’s just Antrim’s style and it works very well for them. They beat Cavan in Ulster and we’re expecting a very tough challenge up in Dunloy.”

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