Armagh captain Steven McDonnell is backing his team to make an impact in what he calls an open All-Ireland championship this summer.
Cork are favorites to retain their title, but McDonnell believes several teams will be in contention come September.
“Not only is it the most open Ulster championship in years, it’s also the most open All-Ireland in quite some time,” McDonnell told the Irish Examiner.
“Cork are the team to beat, they’ve won the last three national titles and they are a real force. But the one thing they don’t have going for them is fear.
“Dublin, Kerry, Tyrone and Down will feel they can beat them. Dublin were seven points up on them with ten minutes to go in the league final.
“Kerry will never fear Cork, Tyrone still believe they let it slip against Cork in 2009 and Down were well ahead of them in last year’s All-Ireland final. By extension, ourselves and Down are evenly matched in Ulster so we would have no qualms about facing Cork either.
“I’m not taking anything away from Cork. They are a great team to finish a game, they are the kingpins but the top counties will still fancy their chances of going all the way this year.”
Armagh meet Ulster champions Down in their provincial opener on May 28, with McDonnell adamant his team will start the game as outsiders.
DUBLIN star Barry Cahill has promised that his team will bounce back from their NFL final defeat to Cork when they squandered an eight point lead.
“We had built up a comfortable seven- or eight-point lead but we didn’t really get over the line, which was disappointing,” said Cahill.
“You move on from these things and you just hope that you have learned the lessons and can try and make up for it later in the summer.
“There were a lot of positives to take out of the game. The first 50 minutes were very good against a very good Cork team. Hopefully we will learn those lessons and build on them in the summer.
“It was probably a combination of things. The injuries didn’t help, the enforced changes and the lads coming off because the likes of Bernard and the lads were going very well at the time.
“But I think we maybe sat back a bit too much and invited Cork on. Cork are a very good team and once they got on a bit of a run they had the momentum behind them. Saying that, we really should have closed out the game.”
PAUL Galvin is an injury doubt for Kerry’s Munster SFC quarterfinal against Tipperary as a result of the hamstring injury picked up in the recent NFL win over Down.
Kingdom boss Jack O’Connor said, “I’m not sure, to be honest. I can’t give a definitive answer other than to say he hasn’t returned to training since the Down game. He has issues with the injury.
“Tommy Griffin is also still struggling with a tendon injury. He hasn’t done anything major as of yet.”
WATERFORD defender Eoin Murphy has been told to rest for a month following his release from hospital after he fractured his skull during a club game. Veteran Eoin Kelly is back training with the Waterford squad and will be available for the championship.
Waterford boss Davy Fitzgerald will also monitor the fitness of Noel Connors after the forward picked up a hand injury in Sunday’s challenge game win over Tipperary.
KILKENNY ace Henry Shefflin made his return to competitive action after his knee surgery with club side Ballyhale Shamrocks on Sunday when he scored two points as a substitute in the league defeat to Dunnamaggin. Martin Comerford is also due to return to the Kilkenny squad after taking a break during their league campaign . . .
SLIGO IT student Seamus Ryder has been added to the Fermanagh squad ahead of the Ulster SFC opener against Derry. Conor Quigley (knee), Barry Mulrone (ankle), John O’Flanagan (finger) and Hugh Brady (hamstring) are all doubts for the Derry game . . .
KILKENNY’S John Dalton has received an eight week ban for his clash with a Dublin player in the recent National League final while teammate Eoin Larkin is out for a month following his red card in the same game . . .
DOWN star Benny Coulter is confident he will be fit for the Ulster opener against Armagh at the end of the month despite tearing his hamstring in a club game three weeks ago . . .
CORK captain Graham Canty has made his return after injury in a club game with Bantry and expects to be fit for the championship . . .
CORK won a fourth successive Ladies National Football League title with a 4-15 to 3-9 win over Laois in Parnell Park on Saturday . . .
DONEGAL manager Jim McGuinness has added Eamon McGee and Patrick McBrearty to his championship squad . . .
LEGENDARY GAA broadcaster Seán Óg Ó Ceallacháin retired after his final radio broadcast on Sunday night.