Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Uladh

Ulster SFC: Armagh v Down – Match Preview, Pivotal Players and Previous Meetings

April 27th, 2024

Armagh v Down

St Tiernach’s Park Clones, 5.15pm (Live on GAA GO)

Referee: Liam Devenney (Maigh Eo)

A lot can change inside twelve months, especially in the world of Gaelic Football and it’s been one whole year since Down and Armagh renewed their age-old rivalry.

The two great foes meet once again at the same juncture as last year, at the same venue, with the dangling prize of a spot in the Ulster final up for grabs when the two lock horns in Clones today.

Armagh came out on top in 2023 thanks to four goals from Andrew Murnin, Shane McPartlan, Ciaran Mackin and Rian O’Neill to contest their first Ulster decider in 15 long years.

And twelve months on, Armagh are arguably in a better position with an all-round stronger squad. Peter McGrane and Oisin Conaty both emerged in the league as guaranteed starters.

Oisin O’Neill is back fit although his role has been very much limited to that of an impact sub while Blaine Hughes has been magnificent between the sticks.

Armagh easily dealt with their Division Two defeat to Donegal as they blew Fermanagh out of the water at Brewster Park two weeks ago. They looked like a team primed for a real tilt at an Ulster title.

Just the previous night, Down had secured their spot in the Ulster semi-final, but manager Conor Laverty wasn’t happy with how his side performed. Down looked sluggish but a few bursts of bright periods were enough to wrestle their way past a depleted Antrim team.

That’s two games in a row now that Down have failed to live up to the hype, that devastating Division Three final loss to Westmeath perhaps still lingering in the back of their minds.

But looking back at last season and on paper, the Mourne men have improved, given the personnel they have available. Barry O’Hagan has returned as has Caolan Mooney, although he is currently injured.

Odhran Murdock will be available for selection this time having missed out last year due to his involvement with the Down u20s and he’ll be a major boost for the men in red and black at centerfield.

Laverty’s match ups will be key this weekend but the problem for the Kilcoo native is deciding which fires he wants to put out.

Stefan Campbell, Conor Turbitt and Jarly Og Burns all claimed majors against Fermanagh, Grugan gave a man of the match performance and Andrew Murnin is Armagh’s best ball winner inside. Rian O’Neill played at midfield but drifted in and out of the forward line.

It looks like Kieran McGeeney’s team is further down the track and while Down need to win to keep their dreams of competing for the Sam Maguire alive, Armagh need a place in the Ulster final more and they look best placed to achieve that.


  1. Blaine Hughes
  2. Paddy Burns
  3. Aaron McKay
  4. Peter McGrane
  5. Joe McElroy
  6. Ciaran Mackin
  7. Aidan Forker
  8. Rian O’Neill
  9. Ben Crealey
  10. Stefan Campbell
  11. Rory Grugan
  12. Oisin Conaty
  13. Conor Turbitt
  14. Andrew Murnin
  15. Jarly Óg Burns
  16. Ethan Rafferty
  17. Barry McCambridge
  18. Tiernan Kelly
  19. Greg McCabe
  20. Connaire Mackin
  21. Darragh McMullan
  22. Jason Duffy
  23. Ross McQuillan
  24. Aidan Nugent
  25. Oisin O’Neill
  26. Shane McPartlan


  1. John O’Hare
  2. Peter Fegan
  3. Ryan McEvoy
  4. Ceilum Doherty
  5. Miceal Rooney
  6. Pierce Laverty
  7. Shealan Johnston
  8. Jonny Flynn
  9. Odhran Murdock
  10. Daniel Guinness
  11. Liam Kerr
  12. Ryan Johnston
  13. Barry O Hagan
  14. Pat Havern
  15. Danny Magill
  16. Kevin Anderson
  17. Ryan Magill
  18. Finn McElroy
  19. James Guinness
  20. Oisin Savage
  21. Conor McCrickard
  22. Shane Annett
  23. Rory Mason
  24. Gareth McKibben
  25. Eamonn Brown
  26. Paddy McCarthy

Pivotal Players 

Armagh – Aidan Forker 

The versatile Maghery man has been a consistent member of the Armagh team since making his debut in 2012. That year he made his bow lining out at wing forward against Down in the McKenna Cup, but has played almost everywhere during his career. 

A renowned attacker at club level, Forker had a brilliant year at full forward in 2020 after helping Maghery win the Senior Championship for the second time. 

For Armagh, Kieran McGeeney has looked to him to be the team’s go-to man-marker, but his offensive instinct and overall versality allows him be a launchpad for so much of the orchard County’s attacking play.  

His display against Fermanagh last day out was an encapsulation of his experience – reading the game well, timing moves forward and floating a couple of dangerous balls into the square to mix up Armagh’s attacking dynamic.  

Down – Miceal Rooney 

Kilcoo clubman Rooney was one of Down’s best performers in the Quarter Final win over Antrim two weeks ago. He pierced through to clip over a first half point and took care of his defensive duties well on an afternoon where Down were more sturdy than spectacular. 

Rooney’s effective ability to move the ball from defence to attack, a hallmark of his club role with Kilcoo, has been replicated in the Red and Black of his county. An All-Ireland Club winner with the Magpies in 2022, Rooney picked up the Man of the Match award in last year’s County Final win over Burren, his eighth Down SFC medal.  

Dynamic, clever and full of work rate, expect to see Rooney popping up anywhere and everywhere on the Clones pitch this afternoon, and he’ll keep the Armagh rearguard on their toes with his support run routes and penetrating forages into space with the ball in hand.  

Previous Three Meetings in Ulster SFC 


Ulster SFC Semi Final  

Armagh 4-10 Down 0-12 


Referee: Conor Lane (Cork) 

On a miserable day in Clones, Armagh displayed an insatiable appetite for this local derby and first half goals from Andrew Murnin and Shane McPartlan set them on their way to an Ulster Final appearance.  Ciaran Mackin and Rian O’Neill hit the rigging again in the second half as they won out comfortable winners against a Down side who came into this game on the back of a home win against Donegal.  One year on in the same venue, Down will be hoping for a much tighter encounter. 

Armagh: E Rafferty, C O’Neill (0-1), A McKay, A Forker (0-1), Ciaran Mackin (1-0), G McCabe, J Og Burns, B Crealey, S McPartlan (1-0), J Duffy (0-2), J Hall (0-1), R O’Neill (1-0), R Grugan (0-1, 1F), A Murnin (1-1), C Turbitt.  Subs: Connaire Mackin for Crealey, S Campbell (0-1) for McPartlan, R McQuillan for Hall, A Nugent (0-1) for Turbitt, Ó Conaty for Murnin, C Cumiskey (0-1) for Ciaran Mackin 

Down: N Kane, P Laverty, S Annett, M Rooney, D Magill, N McParland, M Rooney, D Guinness, C Poland, R McEvoy (0-2, 2F), C Doherty, R Johnston (0-1), L Kerr (0-1), P Brannigan (0-1), P Havern (0-6, 5F), E Branagan.  Subs: S Johnston for Annett, A Gilmore (0-1) for E Branagan, D McAleenan for Doherty, R Carr for P Branagan, C McCrickard for Poland 


Ulster SFC Quarter Final  

Armagh 2-17 Down 3-13 (AET) 

Páirc Esler  

Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow) 

Armagh came from three points down in an extra-time thriller to earn their first Ulster SFC win under Kieran McGeeney. Caolan Mooney’s challenge on Burns led to his dismissal, Down leading by 1-5 to 0-7 at the break but facing into the second half with only 14 players.  

Down handled the numerical disadvantage well, but goalkeeper Rory Burns’ black card put them on the back foot. Mark Hynes came on in goals for his Ulster SFC debut and when Armagh scored 1-2, they were leading 1-13 to 1-8 in the 67th minute, Donal O’Hare scored a goal out of nothing and points from Paul Devlin and James Guinness tied it up.  Down were back up to 15 players for extra time and when they went three points up it looked a huge lead for tiring Armagh limbs to claw back.  

A point from Ryan Kennedy followed a Stefan Campbell point immediately after the restart, respired new life into the game. Andrew Murnin hit 1-1 to turn the game on its head again and Rían O’Neill kicked what turned out to be the insurance point. Down’s late goal wasn’t enough to stay in the Ulster Championship. 

Armagh Scorers: R O’Neill (0-8, 4fs), A Murnin (1-1), M Shields (1-0), J Clarke, R Kennedy & S Campbell (0-2 each), A Nugent & J Morgan (0-1 each). 

Down Scorers: D O’Hare (1-2, 2fs), P Devlin (1-2, 2fs), P Havern (1-1), J Guinness (0-2), J Johnston (0-2, 1f), C Poland, C Francis, C Harrison & B O’Hagan (0-1 each). 


USFC Quarter Final  

Down 0-15 Armagh 2-07  

Páirc Esler  

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork) 

Down ended a 25 year wait for a championship win over neighbours Armagh with this 0-15 to 2-7 Ulster SFC quarter-final success.  Down raced into an early four-point?lead when Ryan Johnston hit the target. Armagh claimed their opening score at 13?minutes, with Mark Shields firing his shot to the roof of the net after the Mourne defence had failed to clear a dropping free kick.  

Connaire Harrison’s point provided just brief respite for Eamonn Burns’ side, but at 21 minutes Jamie Clarke produced a touch of magic to send Stefan Campbell in, and when his shot was saved by Cunningham, Andrew Murnin seized the rebound to net from close range and give Armagh the lead for the first time and they led by 2-4 to 0-9 at the break.  

Down points from O’Hanlon, Mooney and Conor Maginn give them the lead again and just two points separated the sides as the game approached its final ten minutes.  Armagh needed a goal from a Clarke free in the in the 12th?minute of stoppage time, but he blazed over the bar as his side headed for the Qualifiers. 

Down Scorers: D O’Hanlon (0-4, 2f), C Harrison (0-2), C Mooney (0-2), M Cunningham, C Maginn, S Millar, J Johnston, R Johnston,?B O’Hagan & D McKibben (0-1 each).  

Armagh Scorers:  M Shields (1-0), A Murnin (1-0), P Hughes, A McKay, S Sheridan, A Forker, J Clarke, A Duffy & G McParland (0-1 each). 

Sign up now to get the latest from Ulster GAA