Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 April 2014

All Ireland Qualifiers: Armagh must be at best to down Dublin

Paddy O’Rourke was entitled to burn the midnight oil before naming his side to face Dublin in the All Ireland qualifiers in Croke Park.

For if Armagh are to entertain any serious aspirations of progressing to the next round it’s imperative they field their best possible side.

And that certainly wasn’t the case when they struggled to overcome Fermanagh in Brewster Park.

The time for experimenting is long past and manager O’Rourke must now take some bold decisions and that means getting his defensive formation in order.

When crashing out of the Ulster Championship to Monaghan by 12 points in Casement Park it was hard to make out whether they were playing with a sweeper.

If they were it certainly didn’t pay any dividends as Monaghan’s attack ran through them at will, Paul Finlay and Tommy Freeman scoring at will.

Asking Dromintee’s Vinny Martin in his first championship start to do a marking job on Paul Finlay was baffling in the extreme.

Martin’s Dromintee clubman Barry Shannon and Paul McKeown of Crossmaglen were other viable options and must come into consideration of inclusion against Dublin.

Charlie Vernon and Kieran Toner both started at midfield against Monaghan.

But Vernon seems more comfortable in the half forward line and a case can be made for pairing Toner with James Lavery in the middle of the field.

The Maghery man was playing well against Derry in the preliminary round game in May until a first half injury cut short his involvement.

All Armagh will be hoping that Finian Moriarty can start against Dublin for he has been in impressive form all summer, a defender with the ability to carry a ball out of defence with total confidence and self belief

Armagh’s half forward line though continues to be a major concern with all three players who started last Sunday against Fermanagh failing to get on the scoresheet.

The impressive Gareth Swift might just be an option there or possibly even Stefan Campbell, a precocious 19-year-old from Clan Na Gael.

It’s small consolation to Armagh but Dublin too have countless problems.

The reality is that a massive rebuidling job is now a priority following the last five years when the Dubs were good enough to win in Leinster but flopped in the race for Sam Maguire.

Against Tipperary last weekend Dublin did achieve their main goal after the debacle against Meath in that they beat

Tipperary to remain in the qualifiers.

Some of the younger players pressed into action, Eoghan O’Gara, Michael McAuley and Kevin McManamon, all did well as did the Brogans, Alan and Bernard.

Much has changed since Armagh beat Dublin in the 2003 All Ireland qualifiers.

But this game is a wonderful opportunity for Armagh’s young team to perform on the biggest stage of all.