Armagh manager Grimley to step up search for firepower
New Armagh manager Paul Grimley has his sights fixed on two albeit modest targets as his team prepare to commence what could prove to be a hazardous journey through Division Two of the Allianz Football League.
He may be renewing acquaintance with an old friend in Laois manager Justin McNulty when the sides lock horns at Portlaoise on Saturday, but Grimley will dispense with the niceties as he pursues his quest for the first victory of his tenure and steps up his search for more forward power.
McNulty filled the full-back role in the Armagh side that won the 2002 All-Ireland final when Grimley was a very able lieutenant to manager Joe Kernan and he is now numbered with then fellow defenders Kieran McGeeney (Kildare) and Aidan O’Rourke (Louth) within the ranks of county team bosses.
Grimley, meanwhile, saw his Armagh side lose to Cavan and Down in the Power NI Dr McKenna Cup — games which underlined the vulnerable nature of his defence and an absence of forward power.
While stability at the back may be gained through the inclusion of Ciaran McKeever and Finian Moriarty, a perceived dearth of scoring power threatens to militate against the Orchard County’s prospects of significant progress.
Stefan Forker is the only forward to have emerged with real credit from Armagh’s truncated McKenna Cup campaign.
His six points against Cavan included two majestic long-range scores, but his stunning solo show highlighted the absence of cohesion and fluidity in the orchard county attack.
No one is more aware of Armagh’s flaws than Grimley who faces into the league without such experienced players as Aaron Kernan, Jamie Clarke, Brendan Donaghy, Paul Duffy, Paul Hearty and Tony Kernan.
“Obviously we are missing some players but we have to go with what we have,” said Grimley.
“I cannot fault the team for their effort and energy during the McKenna Cup. This was a learning process for a number of the players and hopefully they will have absorbed lessons from it.”
Like all managers, Grimley is not short on advice from every quarter, but Jimmy Smyth, who skippered the Orchard county in the 1977 All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin, perhaps best articulated the current side’s shortcomings up front.
“I believe that Armagh badly need two other forwards to come through quickly to complement Jamie Clarke when he returns to the side,” insists Smyth, a noted analyst.
“Stefan Forker has shown signs that he can become a regular scorer and this is encouraging, but the overall scoring load has to be shared.
“I think Paul Grimley has done the right thing by giving game time to a number of players in those matches against Down and Cavan, but now the challenge will be for at least some of them to make the breakthrough quickly.
“If he could get two of the newer breed to show that they can become regular scorers then Armagh will gain a little more in terms of confidence.
“And confidence is always a big help in striving to compile points in the league.”