Armagh manager Paul Grimley looks forward to Andy Mallon return
It may be darkest December when the collective appetite for GAA action could be said to be somewhat blunted, but for Andy Mallon tonight offers an opportunity to relaunch his Armagh career.
The long-serving defender, currently domiciled in Dublin, is named at full-back in the side that will meet Derry in the first of two O'Fiaich Cup 'tests', the second scheduled for Sunday in the decider of the competition.
Results to date have paved the way for this rather bizarre situation but it would appear that the respective managers Paul Grimley and Brian McIver welcome the opportunity to further assess a number of players within their squads in a match environment.
Grimley is particularly enthused about the re-appearance of the veteran Mallon in the orchard county jersey.
Having missed all of this year, Mallon linked up with his native county again just recently and, having made an appearance as a substitute in the win over Down last week, he now finds himself handed a pivotal defensive role against a Derry side that has looked lively in the competition to date.
"Andy has committed to Armagh again and we are delighted about that. He brings considerable experience and skill to the table," says manager Grimely.
With Brendan Donaghy still not fully fit and Gary McCooey having joined him on the sideline, Mallon will anchor a rearguard that contains a raft of new faces.
"It's important that our new players get game time at this juncture. We have a big panel at present and everyone is entitled to get a chance," points out Grimley.
Derry manager McIver, meanwhile, has plumped for a rather more seasoned side with Dermot McBride, Charlie Kielt, Sean Leo McGoldrick, Benny Heron, Ciaran McGoldrick and Niall Holly all included.
Holly teams up with Emmet Bradley at midfield while Niall McFeely, so impressive for Foreglen in their Ulster club championship campaign, is offered the chance to displays his skills at centrethreequarters.
McIver was satisfied with the manner in which his side beat Down on Sunday (1-11 to 1-10) although he is looking for a more comprehensive performance tonight, particularly as the Power NI Dr McKenna Cup competition is now just around the corner.
"I thought we gave a good show against Down. When Niall Holly came in he did well. I thought that Declan Browne had a brilliant first-half, too," maintains McIver.
Browne is again included in the defence tonight with Kevin Johnston occupying the right-half-back berth in front of him.
McIver is keen to see Derry achieve cohesion and fluency and will be looking to see his players exploit their pace while Grimley is anxious to assess the progress that his new kids on the block are making.
In the win over Louth (0-14 to 2-7) all six starting forwards scored and a repetition of this accuracy would be warmly welcomed by the host manager tonight.
"If we can take our chances and maintain our work rate we should not be too far away," insists Grimley.
DERRY: T Mallon; D Browne, M McShane, D McBride; K Johnston, C Kielt, S L McGoldrick; N Holly, E Bradley; C McWilliams, N McFeely, B Heron; C McGoldrick, E McGuckin, D Kearney.
ARMAGH: P Rodgers; P Hughes, A Mallon, M Murray; C Rafferty, C Vernon, R Grugan; A Findon, P O'Neill; A Forker, B Mallon, O Mac Íomhair; C Mac Íomhair, K Carragher, N McConville.