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Kieran Toner adds a splash of colour to Armagh's pack

By John Campbell

Defections from the Armagh squad have been rather too commonplace for manager Kieran McGeeney lately.

But that trend is about to be reversed. Experienced midfield player Kieran Toner is back in training again and Ethan Rafferty is also becoming fully fit after injury.

The loss of Toner as a first-choice player was felt by Armagh last year when his imposing presence was missed in the middle third of the park.

Tendonitis disrupted the Granemore clubman's career and a subsequent shoulder injury prolonged his stay on the sidelines.

But his anticipated return will now afford McGeeney extra options at midfield as well as at centre-half-back, a position which Toner has also filled comfortably in the recent past.

Armagh spokesman Sean Ó Maolisté reveals that Toner's return is a boost for the panel.

"Obviously stories of players leaving the squad have been hitting the headlines so it's very encouraging that Kieran is on his way back," states Ó Maolisté.

"Players of his experience are hard to come by. He will certainly help to bolster the squad and hopefully he might see some action in the league."

Aaron Findon and Stefan Campbell are currently regarded as Armagh's first choice midfield pairing - they were on duty for the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup semi-final defeat to Tyrone - while Charlie Vernon, Stephen Harold, Paul Courtney and Declan McKenna are others who are capable of manning the engine-room.

When Armagh lost to Donegal in the All-Ireland quarter-finals last year, Toner went in as a substitute for Harold while Rafferty, a towering 21-year-old, replaced St Peter's clubman Findon.

"Midfield is a key area and all teams like to be strong there. With games being played at a high level of intensity now, the work-rate and energy required in the middle third of the park are tremendous," adds Ó Maolisté.

Meanwhile, 1993 Derry All-Ireland winner Enda Gormley has received a timely fillip as he slots into his new role as manager of Carrickmore.

Three of the club's most distinguished players - Martin Penrose, Conor Gormley and Mark Donnelly - are no longer members of the Tyrone squad and it is understood they will now be fully committed to Carrickmore's drive to end their county championship title famine.

Carrickmore have lost each of the last two finals against Clonoe and Omagh respectively and have to go back to 2005 for their last title triumph.

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