Oisín McConville confident that Armagh now have a ‘sustainable’ set-up

Former county star believes Kieran McGeeney’s side can play ‘two different ways’

The night that Armagh announced their return to the top flight of the Allianz Football League by demolishing Dublin at Croke Park, Oisín McConville wondered if it was a false dawn.

“Lots of times we thought, ‘we’re back’,” said the 2002 All-Ireland winner at the time. “Lots of times we thought we could compete with anyone and then we’d get the mother and father of a good hiding.”

Five games later, and with Kieran McGeeney's side chasing a league final place this weekend, McConville is confident enough to say that, yes, this Armagh team is indeed the real deal.

If they beat Donegal on Sunday – in a dress rehearsal for their Ulster quarter-final tie on April 24th – and Mayo fail to beat Kildare, then Armagh will be through to their first Division One final since McConville was a winner himself in 2005.


"I think Armagh now are really, really competitive," said McConville, Armagh's under-20 manager at the launch of the Eirgrid All-Ireland Under-20 Football Championship. "I don't think there will be anyone who can go out and think, 'we'll steamroller Armagh'.

“For players, management, supporters, anyone who has any affiliation to Armagh, that’s a nice place to be in considering where we have been since probably 2007, 2008.

“It feels as if it’s sustainable now as well and that makes a difference. The biggest thing for me was that I know Armagh can play the way they did against Dublin.

“But I wasn’t sure if they could play the way they played against Tyrone. Now I know Tyrone might have been a little bit off it but there was very little room for manoeuvre that day in the Athletic Grounds, and Armagh managed to do that.

“That was something they hadn’t been able to do in the past, and that’s why Armagh’s record in Ulster had been so bad.

“Having the ability to play football two different ways, and to pass those two challenges initially, was a real sign that this was sustainable, it’s here to stay.

“That’s the biggest thing for me, that there seems to be something building and there’s a bit of stuff in the background that would encourage you or make you believe it isn’t a false dawn.”

The next two guaranteed games, both against Donegal, will offer up even more information about Armagh. Sunday’s tie is in Letterkenny while next month’s championship encounter will be in Ballybofey.

“This weekend’s game is in Letterkenny and it is not in Letterkenny by chance,” claimed McConville. “It is in Letterkenny because Donegal do not want Armagh to have the opportunity to play in Ballybofey before the championship and if you are Donegal, you can understand that. It seems a normal enough move.

“Even though we have progressed, I still don’t think we are at the stage where we can pick and choose what games we want to win. For Armagh to push on this weekend and try to possibly make the league final, that should still be the way to go.”