For Queen or County

January 28, 2013

Armagh v Laois

All the shenanigans and baggage associated with this fixture last year which resulted in a 1-15 to 1-10 will be revisited on Saturday night next when Armagh return to Portlaois for the opening game of the 2013 National Football League. A few major changes this time as this is a Division Two fixture, following relegation from the top flight for both at the end of the last campaign. Secondly Armagh will be under new manager Paul Grimley and a fresh management team facing up to former Armagh favourite Justin McNulty beginning his third year in charge of the county formerly known as Queen’s County.

Manager Grimley has already expressed his opinion that Armagh are behind in blooding younger talent onto the county scene. With just 2 losing McKenna Cup matches under his belt Paul will not be unduly worried as he used 27 different players over the course of those two losses to Cavan and Down. At the time of going to press the make up of his National League panel has not been announced. Grimley will definitely be without the services of experienced duo Brendan Donaghy and Charlie Vernon due to injury and is also minus the Crossmaglen Rangers contingent as he strives to strike a balance of experienced and newcomers to this level of football.

Finnian Moriarty, Declan McKenna, Kevin Dyas, Ciaran McKeever, Paul Duffy, Peter Carragher, Aidan Forker, Gavin McParland , Brian Mallon, Caolan Rafferty,  James Lavery, John Kingham  all featured at some stage last year in this fixture so will know the difficult task that awaits them against a traditionally physical home outfit. Armagh chalked up 2-21 in their last two outings but it is consistency that will be needed from the forward division if Armagh are to keep in the Division. Supporters expectancy should be that by the end of the League campaign Armagh will still be in Division Two and a handful of players will have stepped up to the plate and delivered on their youthful promise.

Gavin McParland, Caolan Rafferty, Eugene McVerry, Brian Rafferty, Brian Mallon, the impressive to date, Stefan Forker, Aidan Forker, John Kingham have all had enough game time at this level to be cementing a starting berth through consistency of performance. All look good players on the ball, it is getting the right supply of ball to them or their ability to win the 50/50 ones that is keeping them on the periphery of things.

Defensively Armagh always seem to be able to cope. Young James Donnelly has shaped up well in his two starts. Ciaran McKeever will probably be restored to number 6 with clubmate Gary McCooey an option in defence or attack. Stephen Harold, James Lavery and Kieran Toner are midfield options.

The Armagh management team will have to make their first big call before any action on Saturday night at 7pm as they will have to cull their panel. An indicator of who or what to expect team wise against Laois can only be properly gauged by seeing who he has up for selection from the panel of players already used in the McKenna Cup. Laois like Armagh over these last few years have proven to be no world beaters but always very formidable on their own patch. A return of either score posted by Armagh in their last two defeats I think would be good enough to travel home from O’Moore Park as it should be enough for a victory as the Achilles ’ heel of Justin’s team has been their inability to turn possession into scores.