Tyrone vs Armagh this weekend will be like 'the good old days' 1 year ago

Tyrone vs Armagh this weekend will be like 'the good old days'

One of the greatest rivalries in GAA history could be reignited.

In 2003, Armagh and Tyrone lined out to play each other in the All-Ireland final, an already huge occasion, heightened further by the fact that it was the first, and still only time, that two Ulster sides met in the final.


The Orchard county were the reigning All-Ireland champions, lifting Sam Maguire for the first time in their history just 12 months earlier against Kerry, while Tyrone were always the bridesmaids - two finals but nothing to show for it.

All of that changed in a series of historic moments, from Peter Canavan being substituted off, and then back on again to give the Red Hands the lift they needed, to the fierce battles between Owen Mulligan and Francie Bellew, or Ryan McMenamin and Oisin McConville.

The difference between the two sides was marginal, and when Steven McDonnell was bearing down on the Tyrone goal, with the nets seemingly at his mercy, it looked to the world he was about to claim his county's second title.


That was until Carrickmore's finest - Conor Gormley - appeared from nowhere, and put in one of the best diving blocks you will ever see, to secure Tyrone's victory.

Two years later and the rivalry between these two teams was tipping over the line of hatred - and not just in the way that one sports team claim they hate another - it felt genuinely personal. 

So much so, that when they met in the Ulster final, they needed to play it in Croke Park to accommodate for the crowd that were baying for blood to watch it.


The first game was a masterclass put on by Stevie O'Neill, pinging points over the bar so frequently and easily, you began to suspect it was his birthright on this planet, because the stuff he was doing that year was completely alien.

It resulted in a draw however, so just when you thought this melting pot of competitive rage couldn't possibly boil any longer, it began to overflow, as Armagh won the replay in an unbearably tense affair, that saw Peter Canavan red carded just moments after he came onto the pitch.

The Errigal Ciarán man would have the last laugh however, kicking the winning point when the two met again in the semi-final that year, and putting an end to rivalry as we knew it.


Both teams went on to suffer lulls in the 2010s, but Tyrone's transitional period back to the top was a lot more successful, picking up several Ulster titles along the way and competing in a few All-Ireland semi-finals, with of course one final in 2018. 

Armagh struggled to replace Kieran McGeeney, Oisin McConville, Francie Bellew, Ronan Clarke, Steven McDonnell and the McNultys, and faded away to Division Three.

However, McGeeney came back as manager, and although it wasn't a linear path back to the top table, after years of hardship and graft, Armagh are knocking on the door of greatness once again.


Tyrone are the defending All-Ireland champions, and also have two former legends at the reigns, meaning that on Sunday, in The Athletic Grounds, these two foes are on a collision course to re-live history, while making some of their own.

For the first time in over a decade, both teams are genuinely in the hunt for glory this year, and Armagh's emphatic win over Dublin last weekend will give them all the confidence they need going into this weekend's game.

Rian O'Neill will have to tussle it out with Pádraig Hampsey, in a battle that could pay homage to those between McDonnell and Gormley, and the fans are already beginning to give each other stick reminiscent of the noughties.

Rub sticks against each other long enough, and you'll create a fire, a fire that once burned brightly between these two historic teams, and although no fan will wish the other well, they secretly all want those 'good old days to return'.