Armagh manager Paul Grimley in a dilemma after James Lavery blow
By John Campbell
Armagh manager Paul Grimley finds his midfield options for the forthcoming Ulster championship clash with Cavan rather more limited now that James Lavery has been ruled out.
The Maghery clubman sustained a serious neck injury in training recently and it will be some weeks yet before he comes close to full fitness.
Grimley is also awaiting the result of a scan on Aaron Kernan's leg injury. The Crossmaglen Rangers ace has had more than his share of setbacks over the past year and his latest knock comes at the worst possible time, according to Grimley.
"Aaron has endured a couple of hard seasons with injuries but he has always managed to bounce back. He could have done without this at what is the worst possible time. We are keeping our fingers crossed for him," says the Armagh boss.
Kernan has been a fixture in the Orchard County line-up for several years and his experience was badly missed during the greater part of the recent Allianz League competition in which Armagh were relegated to Division Three.
He was an eleventh-hour inclusion in the side in place of Mark Shields for the last game against Donegal – a confrontation that sealed Armagh's fate.
On a more encouraging note, James Morgan and Ciaran McKeever are expected to face Cavan in the quarter-final on June 8.
"The fact that there are several weeks still to go before the game gives us a chance to get some people back on board. We are monitoring the situation as we go along," adds Grimley.
Stephen Harold and Feidhlim O'Neill formed the midfield partnership against Donegal while Aaron Findon, Charlie Vernon and Ethan Rafferty will also be pressing their claims for selection against Cavan.
Rafferty showed promise both at Under-21 and senior levels earlier in the season before incurring an ankle injury which has kept him out of action of late, while Gary McCooey made a welcome return from injury against Donegal.
Grimley has already dissected Cavan's performance in their Allianz League Division Three final defeat against Roscommon on Saturday. When Armagh met the Breffni side in the preliminary round of the Ulster series last year, they lost by 1-15 to 1-11.
This time around, Armagh are favoured with home advantage at the Athletic Grounds, although Grimley is quick to play down any perceived benefits.
"In the championship, it does not matter where you play. If you are properly tuned in and committed, you can perform anywhere. A field is a field, after all," he adds.