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‘We’d love to win an Ulster title’ – Armagh and Rory Grugan determined to win some silverware


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Memories of last year’s gut-wrenching defeat to Derry on penalties in the provincial final has the Orchard county all fired up

They’ve largely been marked absent since as they moved from feast to famine. In the 10 seasons before this campaign, their Ulster record reads: played 18, won six, drawn two, lost 10.​

In their first four seasons under Kieran McGeeney, starting in 2015, they didn’t win a game in the province, losing to Donegal, Cavan, Down and Fermanagh first time out.

Today’s Sport News in 90 Seconds – 24th April

However, last season they kicked into gear, winning three in a row before losing to Derry on penalties in the final.

On Saturday night, Armagh face neighbours Down for a place in the final in Clones. And Grugan is making no secret of where his side want to go.

“I don’t think there’s any point in hiding the fact that we’d love to win an Ulster title,” Grugan said after they dismissed Fermanagh in Enniskillen in their Ulster SFC quarter-final.

“I think that is the same for every county in Ulster. Whatever about the other provincial championships around Ireland and the value that others place on them, you can still see what it means to people and what it means to Armagh people to try and win that.

“It was obviously an extremely disappointing way to lose the final last year with the penalties.

“We’ve got over the first hurdle and now we’ve the chance to play Down in a semi-final knowing that the carrot of another final and getting back to try and win is there.

“That’s where we want to be again, to right that wrong [last year’s defeat to Derry in the Ulster decider]. Down are thinking the same. It is their chance to get to the All-Ireland series. There is that carrot for them as well, so it should make for a good game.”

If last year’s provincial semi-final meeting between the teams is anything to go by, Armagh are in pole position. They hit four goals and dominated the second half to win by 10 points at St Tiernach’s Park, 4-10 to 0-12.

“It is a repeat of last year’s game. We got a couple of goals to stretch the game out, whereas, before that, it was very tight. It was a wet day,” Grugan recalled.

“I’d imagine Down, with another year down the line with Conor [Laverty], they will be very well set up. They are a very athletic, pacey team with a lot of threats up front.

“We all probably watched the game, but until you get your own job done, you aren’t really thinking about it. Now we’ve the job done, we can look back on it and get the work done on them.”

Armagh’s ability to blow hot and cold reared its head in the Division 2 final defeat to Donegal, which they lost by a point, but Grugan is hopeful the return to full fitness of the likes of Rian and Oisín O’Neill and Jarly Óg Burns will stand to them as the championship progresses.

“It is a good sign. It is probably the most injury-free season we’ve had outside of a few and we hope that continues.

“It is obviously a long season, the games come thick and fast, so you can pick injuries up, but we believe we’ve the depth in our squad that the next man in is going to do the job,” he said.

“You see the quality of the names of the 26 not even starting – that’s a good thing for us. It means everyone is pushing hard and you can never rest on your laurels.

“In terms of training, our ‘A’ versus ‘B’ games are very competitive and very intense.

“That is where you want to be. As long as everyone is pushing for the team, that’s what is most important.”

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