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Armagh manager Grimley rueing a lack of midfield options

By John Campbell

Armagh manager Paul Grimley faces into Sunday's all-important All Ireland football qualifier against Wicklow without adequate midfield cover.

Grimley had already been resigned to planning without Kieran Toner and Charlie Vernon but his engine-room options have suddenly been eradicated now that Johnny Hanratty looks certain to miss the game.

While James Lavery and the emerging Stephen Harold will form the starting partnership against the Yeats County, Grimley acknowledges that should he be forced to turn to the substitutes' bench at any stage the cupboard in midfield terms will be bare.

"Kieran Toner has tendinitis in his knees which is taking time to heel while Charlie Vernon is only really getting back to full fitness," explains Grimley.

"These are two experienced players and we could be doing with them. Johnny Hanratty has had an injury which is slow to clear and while we would be giving him chance it does not look good."

Grimley is actually missing a raft of players following the Ulster Championship preliminary round defeat to Cavan but in the interim he has been working overtime on fostering a fresh spirit within the side.

"We have had a couple of team meetings at which the emphasis was on openness and honesty and we are a better squad for that," reveals Grimley. Now I want the lads to go out there and show that they are a better side than they were against Cavan."

Grimley's personal stock will be under considerable pressure during the game because of his perceived failure to have got his defensive mechanism right for the Kingspan Breffni Park contest. But the Orchard County boss, far from being concerned for his own status, is anxious to see his players show themselves in a true light.

"These boys have been putting in a huge effort and I just want to see their hard work rewarded with a win over Sligo. Things did not go our way against Cavan but that game is done and dusted now and we must move on."

Meanwhile, Antrim manager Frank Dawson is keeping his fingers crossed that Kevin Niblock will be ready to face Louth in the qualifiers on Saturday.

Niblock was forced to hobble off in the Ulster Championship quarter-final against Monaghan with what is understood to have been a recurrence of an old ankle injury.

"He is our go-to player and he was showing well before he got hurt against Monaghan. We could certainly be doing with him for the qualifiers. It would be a big blow to have to do without him," said Antrim PRO Brendan Mulgrew.

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