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Armagh on a roll but Galway are tougher challenge

By John Campbell

Armagh have now won three of their last four competitive matches, a relatively modest statistic by any standards yet an entry in the record books which has suddenly assumed added significance.

While two of those victories have come against feeble Wicklow and even more humble Leitrim in the All-Ireland qualifiers, the third was chalked up at the expense of Galway in the team's last match in Division Two of the Allianz League.

That was a win which did much to ensure Armagh's divisional tenure for another year with manager Paul Grimley not expecting to confront the Tribesmen again until the early part of 2014.

But fate has now conspired that the Orchard County must travel to Pearse Park, Salthill on Saturday to once again meet Alan Mulholland's side with the 'prize' for the winners an All-Ireland qualifier fourth round tie against Cork.

In overcoming Galway at the Athletic Grounds back in April, Armagh gave the first hint that under Grimley their new-found attacking strategy might just begin to pay dividends.

This was certainly not reflected in a gut-wrenching Ulster Championship preliminary round defeat to Cavan but in the subsequent qualifier encounters against Wicklow and Leitrim the compilation of 10-34 suggested that while the defensive skills of both these sides were virtually non-existent, Armagh had nonetheless rediscovered their ability take chances.

And Grimley now believes that this could be key to further progress, although he warns that Galway will be keen to make a big statement in front of their fans.

In chiselling out qualifier wins over lowly Waterford and Tipperary to date, Galway have been ragged, lacking in leadership and error-prone.

But you won't catch the diligent Grimley reading too much into these displays by the former Connacht kingpins.

"Galway still have quality players in their side like Paul Conroy, Michael Meehan, Seanie Armstrong and Finian Hanley and they will be very keen to impress at home," points out Grimley.

"This match is probably coming at a good time for them but the important thing for us is to focus on our own strategy.

"While we are delighted to have got those wins over Wicklow and Leitrim, we know that the bar will be raised significantly from here on in. There is no hiding place for anyone now that we are at the business end of the Championship."

Tony Kernan, Jamie Clarke and Eugene McVerry are currently on fire in the Armagh attack while James Lavery and Stephen Harold form a durable if unpretentious midfield partnership with Aaron Kernan and Ciaran McKeever supplying invaluable experience at the back.

A second victory over Galway would propel Armagh into round four and a meeting with a Cork team that every other third round side wanted to avoid.

But wisely Grimley is not prepared to "even go there", as he puts it, at this point in time.

The stinging criticism with which he was bombarded following the Kingspan Breffni Park setback left an open wound which, while partially healed by those qualifier wins, still requires further treatment.

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