Time to deliver

June 2, 2014

Heading into his second championship campaign, Armagh Manager Paul Grimley knows that it’s time his charges delivered a win in the Ulster campaign. On Sunday in the Athletic Grounds at 4pm, Armagh take on Cavan in what is seen as a must win game for both the manager and players. High flying Cavan skated to promotion and a league final that resulted in defeat to, Roscommon 1-17 to 0-18, whilst Armagh will replace them in Division Three next year following relegation in the league. Worst still is the fact that Armagh are still smarting from last year’s championship defeat 1-15 to 1-11 at Kingspan Breffni Park. Armagh were shocking 12 months ago yet only shipped a very flattering 4 point defeat at the hands of the rampant Breffni men. On Sunday that result is expected, by the home support, to be reversed and avenged but by what Armagh team line-out.

The Orchard County league campaign was littered with high profile injury crisis from one game to the next. The composition of the starting 15 nfor the weekend is still a matter for huge speculation. Is Parnell’s bound team Captain Ciaran McKeever, Aaron Kernan, Brendan Donaghy, James Morgan, The Forker’s fit to start along with all the others carrying injuries. Cavan have their own injury worries with Cian Mackey (goal last year v Armagh) and Martin Dunne (9 points last year v Armagh) nursing injuries but are expected to be fit. It was the Cavan full forward line of McDermott, Dunne and Keating that did all the damage in Breffni up against Paul McKeown, Declan McKenna and Mark Shields. There was also the hype in the Armagh camp surrounding the championship debut of rising prospect Ciaran O Hanlon. This time round Armagh have had ample time to study and prepare for the Cavan “style of play”

In the league final it was midfield dominance from Roscommon that laid the foundation for their success. Armagh’s possible starting midfielders Stephen Harold, Ethan Rafferty Aaron Findon (pick any 2 from 3 or all 3) will have their hands full with Damien Reilly and Gearoid McKiernan who was absent last year through injury. Armagh will also have to deal with the double teaming on Jamie Clarke which worked so well when the sides last met in the championship. Will Charlie Vernon, used on numerous occasions at full back, get the number 3 jersey for Sunday. The main thing Armagh have to work on from last year is to cut the gap between the half backs and full back line which was enormous last year when Cavan ran riot against a very exposed full back line. Quality ball to good forwards will always leave defenders in trouble.

With midfield so important it will be vital for goalkeeper Philip McEvoy to get his ball delivery right into that sector. McKeever and Shields afford him the short option if the long delivery is not working. In attack the Cavan focus will be on Clarke which should give the others room to manoeuvre. Stefan Campbell proved to be a real find in the league as did Ethan Rafferty. Tony Kernan and Kevin Dyas should join Clarke, Campbell and Rafferty as the forwards. In training and challenge games Eugene McVerry is reported to be going well with the Mullaghbawn man expected to make the starting line- up.

The all -out attack policy touted by the manager last year is great in theory to wish for but it cannot be played at the expense of the defending we witnessed at Kingspan. Most good teams are based on solid defending. With Cavan defending and attacking in droves it is the possession of the “dirty ball” that could decide the outcome. Armagh were blown out of contention early on twelve months ago I expect a totally different approach this time round with space at a premium along with scores.

Armagh are a better team than Cavan on paper but Cavan have a system and style of football to play to. It will be interesting to see if Armagh have adopted a system of play which can get them over the line and into the semis. A rocking Athletic Grounds will be the boost needed to lift the team who, if near full strength, are a lot better than has been produced to date. Sunday is the time to deliver and Armagh as they have proven in the past are best served when least expected to deliver.