Ulster SFC Quarter-final: Armagh v Monaghan, St Tiernach's Park, Clones, 2.00, Referee M Sludden (Tyrone) Live, RTÉ Two, 1.30; BBC2, 1.55
There's a daunting statistic staring at Monaghan this afternoon. Since their opponent's golden era began in '99, never have Armagh won their opening game in Ulster and failed to win out the province. It shows the momentum early victories built up and Derry has been one of the most valuable early wins Armagh have had over that period. Not only did it wash out the last of the doubts amassed in the turmoil and disarray of last season, it confirmed what the league hinted at – Armagh are again a force to be reckoned with.
Since Monaghan last played a game, a National League loss to Kerry, Armagh have won three times. They've thrashed Donegal in a do-or-die tie in Ballybofey, been to Croke Park to win a trophy against their greatest of rivals Down and came away from Celtic Park with the rarest of away-team victories. That's a lot for Monaghan to take on the chin having just stepped into the ring. Probably too much.
Watch out for Stevie McDonnell (right) today. After his sending off last year and his recent comments about Monaghan, we expect to see him on the ball plenty and in some of the best form of his life which could be detrimental to the home side. But there's plenty around him. Aaron Kernan looks good at 11, Charlie Vernon and Kieran Toner are living up all the hype of their younger years while Brendan Donaghy and Ciarán McKeever are the best defensive spine in football.
Those two will have to maintain recent form because Conor McManus has made Monaghan more than a one-man inside-forward line but we doubt Monaghan's defence can marry ferocious intensity with discipline, if Owen Lennon can get up to speed after injury and if anyone can help Paul Finlay score from distance.
Verdict Armagh by two.
ARMAGH P Hearty, A Mallon, B Donaghy, V Martin; P Duffy, C McKeever, F Moriarty; C Vernon, K Toner; M Mackin, A Kernan, G Swift, B Mallon, S McDonnell, R Henderson