Diarmaid Marsden warns Armagh to make fast start against Westmeath and prove they can kick on when ahead
Diarmaid Marsden will always treasure memories of Armagh’s achievement in winning their only All-Ireland SFC title to date in 2002.
Today, some 21 years on from that achievement, Marsden is more immersed than ever in GAA activity as the Ulster Council’s head of community development and, as he puts it himself, “one of Armagh’s most passionate supporters”.
This afternoon Marsden will be on the edge of his seat when Armagh face Westmeath in the first of their All-Ireland SFC round-robin ties and nothing less than a win – and hopefully an emphatic one – will serve to satiate his appetite.
“It’s hugely important that Armagh should win this game because they must then face Tyrone and Galway and they will definitely be no easy missions,” says Marsden.
“When you think about it, Tyrone have lost to Monaghan and Galway in their last two matches and they won’t want to make it three defeats on the trot. From Armagh’s perspective, a win against Westmeath would help to lift spirits and morale following that Ulster final setback against Derry.”
Marsden makes a pertinent point in referencing Armagh’s league and championship campaigns to date.
“Armagh went to Kerry in the league and lost by just a point, they drew with Mayo who went on to win the league, they were only beaten by two points by both Galway and Tyrone and they lost to Roscommon by three points,” outlines Marsden.
“The point I am making here is that the team came very close to getting more league points but were just unable to close out games. That is a very important factor when you are in the hunt for honours and I would hope that they will be able to keep the pressure on for the entire duration of games in this round-robin series.
“When you look at the Ulster final, Armagh went a couple of points up in the closing stages for what was the first time in the game but were not able to protect that lead.
“Instead, Derry reined them in again and went on to win the penalty shoot-out when Armagh looked as if they might have snatched a victory.
“To be totally honest, I don’t think that Armagh played to their full potential in the Ulster final. I know they are a better team than that and they are now getting the chance to prove themselves when the chips are really down.
“That’s why I see today’s game as being so important because it offers the side the opportunity to get up and running again.
Marsden is looking no further than today’s game against Dessie Dolan’s side who finished in mid-table in Division 3 of the league.
“Obviously Westmeath may not be challenging for All-Ireland titles or anything like that but at the same time they will give anybody a game,” Marsden adds.
“Dessie Dolan was a top-class footballer himself during his playing career and he will be hoping that his team can parade skill and staying power. Home advantage should help Armagh in this game but they need to be giving it everything from the start.
“I think the team are getting a big opportunity to deliver on their home ground and I hope they make the most of this.
“The round-robin series is a challenging environment and every team is keen to make an impact going forward.
“I don’t want to be sounding dramatic but if Armagh were not to win today then it would serve to make life extremely difficult going forward, that’s the long and short of it.
“From Armagh’s perspective a handsome win would be a big bonus at this stage given what is at stake. I know the team are capable of achieving more and I hope they rise to the occasion.”