Grimley can steer Armagh through injury crisis: McCooey
AS one of Armagh's walking wounded, Gary McCooey finds himself in good company.
The St Patrick's Cullyhanna clubman is currently sidelined through injury along with a raft of more experienced players just when manager Paul Grimley had hoped that his travails might have eased.
Yet although the Orchard County must face Meath with something approaching a shadow team on Saturday night, McCooey is backing Grimley to steer the side out of danger.
Armagh desperately need a win at Meath's expense if they are to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle at this early stage.
But even though they will travel to Pairc Tailteann, Navan without many familiar faces, McCooey believes that Grimley's rhetoric and motivational skills complemented by those of Kieran McGeeney will fortify the side.
"This is a big match for Armagh, no doubt about it," reflects the 24-year-old joiner, who also works on the family farm in south Armagh.
"I am recovering from a torn cartilage in my knee and I just can't believe the number of players who are under the care of the medics and the physios right now.
"I think most managers would throw their hands up in despair but Paul is remaining calm and is working very hard to keep morale high."
Knee problems are nothing new to McCooey, of course. He suffered a similar injury against Derry last year just when he was breaking into the side and had to exercise patience before returning to the squad.
Just as he was about to hit a higher level of form this term, fate dealt him a cruel blow when once again knee damage forced him out.
"I'm in a limbo situation at the minute but I'll just have to be patient. I think that we are lucky in the sense that we have a panel of upwards of 40 players but obviously Paul would love to field his strongest line-up. That certainly won't be possible for a while," admits McCooey.
He had just begun to catch the eye in the Orchard County defence and his robust forays into enemy attacking were proving the launch-pad for scores.
His St Patrick's club colleague Robbie Tasker could have a key job to do in the Armagh attack, probably alongside Brian Mallon and the emerging Oisin MacIomhair, while Eugene McVerry and Niall McConville are also in contention for places.
Meath may have imploded in their last outing against Monaghan but their team nonetheless contains some top-class forwards with Michael Newman and Stephen Bray in particular destined to ask some pertinent questions of the Armagh rearguard.
Yet the Meath defence has looked particularly vulnerable having conceded 4-31 in two games – not the kind of statistic which augers well for their progress in a division which holds some testing upcoming games for them.
For Armagh, Saturday's mission is fraught with difficulties but manager Grimley will surely hope to benefit from something that he has found hard to come by lately – a rub of the green.