Crossmaglen pair key to Armagh chances
James Morgan and Paul McKeown may still be learning their trade in the inter-county arena but the shoal of honours they have won with Crossmaglen Rangers will stand them in good stead when they face major assignments today.
Armagh boss Paul Grimley is expected to detail important man-marking tasks to the duo when his team face Galway in a vital All-Ireland qualifier with Morgan likely to pick up Danny Cummins while McKeown looks set to shadow Seanie Armstrong.
Morgan has made a huge impact since coming into the Orchard County line-up just recently while McKeown, who captained Crossmaglen to All-Ireland club glory in 2011, has made the left-full-back position his own.
Cummins has been showing exceptional form in the Galway attack alongside the more experienced Armstrong and the mercurial Michael Meehan who is expected to be policed by Brendan Donaghy.
Galway have been singularly unimpressive in the qualifiers to date having just got past Tipperary by 1-12 to 0-11 before receiving an even bigger scare against Waterford when they just managed to inch over the line by a point, 1-12 to 0-14.
Little wonder, then, that manager Alan Mulholland views the visit of Armagh to Pearse Stadium, Salthill with extreme caution.
"We were very fortunate indeed against Waterford in particular," admits Mulholland.
"We got a late goal from Michael Meehan and then a couple of points that just got us home.
"We might have got the result but we certainly did not get the performance that we wanted."
Mulholland is clinging to the hope that his side can find the right gear at last, his stock having taken a battering following the humiliating defeat by Mayo in the Connacht Championship.
But while Galway's woes have been well chronicled, Armagh boss Grimley is anxious to see his defence exhibit the same resolve that they revealed in the mauling of Leitrim last Saturday.
"While we beat Galway in the league, they still ran us very close and with home advantage they will be particularly keen to up their level of performance this time round," says Grimley.
"They still have a lot of very good players including several top-class forwards."
Morgan and McKeown will be expected to lead the Armagh resistance and the duo will be fortified by a strong vote of confidence from their manager.
"These are players who have gained massive success at club level – they are winners and are very keen to carry this over into their careers with Armagh.
"While we take heart from our wins over Wicklow and Leitrim, I believe that Galway will pose a much bigger challenge for us especially as they are looking for a bigger display than they have offered of late," states Grimley.