Paul Grimley's relieved to welcome back key men for Cavan showdown
Published 17/04/2014 | 02:30
When Armagh manager Paul Grimley was forced to replace five players immediately prior to the vital Allianz Football League Division Two tie against Donegal earlier this month it was felt that Jim McGuinness's side might canter to victory.
This did not prove to be the case, though.
Donegal were made to fight all the way for their 2-10 to 1-8 victory with Grimley subsequently lamenting what he described as the "incompetent performance" of referee Fergal Kelly as a telling factor in determining the outcome of the contest.
But right now, rather than dwelling on a match that left a bitter taste in the mouth, Grimley is preparing to lay out the welcome mat for Aaron Findon, Mark Shields, Rory Grugan, Phelim O'Neill and Caolan Rafferty in the build-up to the all-important Ulster championship meeting with Cavan on June 8.
The quintet were replaced by Gary McCooey, Aaron Kernan, Finian Moriarty, Stefan Campbell and Charlie Vernon for the clash with Donegal but Grimley now feels that he will have a stronger hand from which to deal for the confrontation with Terry Hyland's upbeat outfit.
"Obviously our injury situation has been well chronicled since the beginning of the year but maybe we are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel," says Grimley. "Every manager wants to have his full complement of players on board for the championship and while the game against Cavan is still a little way off you would like to see all the players fit and available."
Armagh's relegation to Division Three came as a big blow to a county that has been accustomed to rubbing shoulders with the elite but Grimley sees the Ulster championship as a doorway to redemption.
"We will be at home against Cavan – not that this will be a massive advantage, of course – but you have to take every positive you can get," he added.
"We want to get our best possible team out and if we can manage that, I think we won't be too far away."
Caolan Rafferty's return would certainly boost the attack given his strong running while Rory Grugan offers options at half-back or half-forward with Mark Shields having impressed Grimley at wing-back since being introduced to the side.
Gary McCooey caught the eye in defence against Donegal, the combined experience of Charlie Vernon and Aaron Kernan could be usefully deployed against Cavan while Finian Moriarty can play either at corner-back or wing-back.
"We want to get things right defensively.
"We are aware that Cavan have some hot forwards and we must try and shackle them," insists Grimley.
"The championship is a whole new ball game from every perspective and I am certainly experiencing no difficulties in motivating my players despite our disappointing finish to the league."