Dr McKenna Cup: Armagh and Down clash the pick of closing section matches

Armagh's Ciaran McKeever and Down's Mark Poland battle during the 2015 Football League game
Armagh will face Down at the Athletic Grounds on Wednesday night

Armagh and Down face a straight shootout on Wednesday night for a place in the Dr McKenna Cup semi-finals.

The rivals, who will clash in the Ulster Senior Football Championship on 4 June, face a dress-rehearsal in the Athletic Grounds (20:00 GMT).

Monaghan and Cavan will advance to the semi-finals if they avoid defeat against St Mary's and UU respectively.

Holders Tyrone may finish best runners-up with a win over Donegal though Derry and Fermanagh are still in the hunt.

Despite having lost their opener against Derry, Armagh's big win over Queen's on Sunday means that are likely to qualify as Section A winners, unless the Oak Leafers will heavily against Queen's.

New Down forward Alan Davidson, a former Irish League player with Ballymena, Glenavon and Newry City, hit 0-9 in Sunday's 0-15 to 0-14 win over Derry at Pairc Esler.

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McKenna Cup highlights

"We managed to grind the result out in the end," he said.

"It's early days, but there is only positivity in the camp now at the moment.

"We will go into the Armagh game on Wednesday night confident."

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney said the game will have no bearing on what happens come the big championship showdown in June.

"You'll be doing different things, there will be some hands held back and some shown, but in terms of where we both are, being honest, we're not that far apart."

While Derry probably need to win big against Queen's at Owenbeg to keep alive their qualification hopes, manager Damian Barton insists that he team will need to perform well to beat the students.

"Winning the match is the target and it will presumably be the same for Queen's," the Derry manager told BBC Sport Northern Ireland.

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Derry boss Damian Barton expects tough McKenna Cup contest against Queen's

"We made changes against Down on Sunday and will do the same on Wednesday. This competition is about giving boys a run-out and a taste. The league is approaching very fast."

After outclassing Antrim at the weekend, Monaghan will be expected to finish Section B with a 100% record by accounting for St Mary's at Inniskeen while Fermanagh's most realistic hope of qualification is that a big win over the Saffrons might be enough to see them clinching the best runners-up spot.

However, Tyrone go into the final round of games in pole position to clinch the final last-four spot, given their scoring average of 1.34.

While Donegal boss Declan Bonner expects to have a stronger under-21 squad available to him at Healy Park than in Sunday's defeat by Cavan, the Red Hands will still be strong favourites to rack up a comprehensive victory.

Eoghan Gallagher, Lorcan Connor, Christin Bonner and Stephen McBrearty are among a number of players who may line out for Donegal after missing Sunday's game.

However, Mickey Harte has included several regulars in his starting line-up, including Mattie Donnelly's return from suspension, so the young Donegal side are likely to be up against it.

Cavan, meanwhile, will be fancied to complete a winning run in Section C by accounting for Ulster University at Breffni Park.

Wednesday's fixtures

Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup (20:00 GMT)

Section A

Armagh v Down at Athletic Grounds

Derry v Queen's at Owenbeg

Section B

Monaghan v St Mary's at Inniskeen

Fermanagh v Antrim at Brewster Park

Section C

Tyrone v Donegal at Healy Park

Cavan v Ulster University at Kingspan Breffni Park

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