Antrim v Armagh, McKenna Cup 2019

Four Remain Unbeaten, As New Rule Begins To Take The Hand

Red Hands and North Westerners firmly into stride, as Orchardmen need little invitation to grab low-hanging fruit!!!

After the mind-boggling pre-Christmas fixture programme that saw the first round of McKenna Cup fixtures played with little rhyme or reason, the completion of round two passed off yesterday with the sweet uniformity that our OCD, here at Ball-X, violently craved.

Ahead of Wednesday night’s conclusion to the round-robin ties, Donegal and Cavan have assumed control in Group A, and know that a semi-final spot beckons for the winner of their clash in Ballybofey. Both teams have now put pay to Down and Queens in their opening two games, who themselves will face each other in what might prove a welcomed dead-rubber in Newry – Paddy Tally still very much in suck-it-and-see mode in terms of player selection, in these, the early days of his tenure.

It’s hard to know what Kieran McGeeney and his Armagh side have learned about themselves in two landslide victories over St. Mary’s and Antrim, to open their year. If the Orchard supremo was praying for a little more intensity from yesterday’s opposition, after running rings around The Ranch in Crossmaglen the week before Christmas, well, he didn’t pray hard enough. Easy to criticise, and many would fully expect Liam Harbinson’s side to improve throughout the course of their Division 4 campaign, but by God…! The utter shambles that was The Saffrons first-half display yesterday, was a hard watch for the pretty sizeable crowd that trekked to a wet Glenavy of a Sunday.

The sorry sight of the scoreboard at half-time in Glenavy.

For McGeeney however, positives can be taken from the impressive display of Ryan McShane again at wing half forward, and dynamic enough showings from experienced hands Jamie Clarke and Soupy Campbell in the inside line, proving that they can be of some use to a potential Championship drive, after their American adventures.

The shock result of the round was undoubtedly in Clones, where St. Mary’s hauled themselves from the canvas after their December dismemberment, to grab a draw against Monaghan. Credit where credit is due, but one must really question the future involvement of the three university teams, having accumulated no wins and a points deficit of -57 over six games. Queen’s managed all of three points against Cavan in Ballyconnell yesterday, for God’s sake.

Best of the academic bunch has, unsurprisingly, been Jordanstown, and they were able to put up a decent show in Omagh before falling eventually to eight points at the hands of Tyrone. Ironically, most of the 1-09 mustered by the students came from sources that will hope to feature for Mickey Harte come National League time. The victory all but guarantees Tyrone their annual last four berth, as Derry overcame Fermanagh at Brewster Park.

And, whilst there may be little to get either too excited or too disgruntled about at this stage of the campaign, the McKenna Cup has, at the very least, served it’s purpose in exposing the calamity that is the proposed new hand-pass rule. Watching inter-county footballers emergency stop attacks as their brains try to filter what to do after three hand-passes is not conducive to a more exciting brand of football, which, no doubt, the rule was created to enhance. Next!

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