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Grimley is going nowhere as Armagh prepare Ulster bid after demotion

By John Campbell

Armagh manager Paul Grimley espouses defiance as the focus switches to the Ulster Championship following his team's demotion to Division Three of the Allianz Football League.

And he is not the only team boss under considerable pressure as the province's premier competition draws closer.

Down manager James McCartan, Antrim's Liam Bradley and Fermanagh's Peter McGrath have all been left with much food for thought following an Allianz League campaign that initially promised much but ultimately delivered precisely nothing for them in terms of success.

While Derry are through to the league semi-finals and Tyrone have maintained their slot in Division One, Donegal and Monaghan are preparing for the Division Two final, having of course already clinched their places in the top tier.

And Cavan have really set tongues wagging by galloping into Division Two on the back of an unbeaten seven-match itinerary in Division Three which will see them meet Roscommon in the divisional final on April 26.

For Armagh, Down, Antrim and Fermanagh, though, it is time for sombre reflection.

Down face a massive test against Tyrone in the championship opener on May 18 while Armagh will cross swords with Cavan with Antrim and Fermanagh going head to head in another quarter-final.

Yet while Division Three will be alien territory for an Armagh side that not so long again were ranked among the sport's power-brokers, manager Grimley believes that his players will still respond positively to the championship demands.

And a cryptic three-word message emphatically ends speculation surrounding his own future.

"I'm going nowhere," declares Grimley. "Contrary to what people might think, it's not going to be difficult to motivate this Armagh side for the Championship," he goes on.

"These boys have bounced back before and I have no doubt that they will show character."

While Grimley is clearly anxious to preach a positive gospel in advance of what could prove a defining championship for both him and Armagh, he nonetheless is still hurting from what he proclaims was a less than competent performance by Longford referee Fergal Kelly in Sunday's defeat to Donegal – a match that will live long in his memory for all the wrong reasons.

"We talk about giving respect and getting respect within the GAA and that is fine but the elephant in the room is always the referee," asserts Grimley.

Caolan Rafferty, Rory Grugan and Mark Shields were all eleventh-hour withdrawals from the side that lost to Donegal on Sunday but Grimley expects to have this trio back for the championship.

Down manager McCartan, whose county have not won an Ulster title since 1994, acknowledges that the flagship competition will test the mettle of his inconsistent outfit.

"I always maintain that if we can bring our A-game to the table we can compete with anybody. But if we bring anything else we will get turned over," warns McCartan.

Antrim boss Liam Bradley, meanwhile, maintains that it will be "all hard work" between now and his team's clash with Fermanagh.

The Saffrons finished in mid-table in Division Four, their promotion ambitions jettisoned from a comparatively early stage.

"Antrim football is not in a good place at the minute and it will be all hard work," insists Bradley.

His Fermanagh counterpart Peter McGrath is equally realistic in assessing his own team's chances.

"We played some good football in the league but on other occasions we played uninspiring football. We now have the time to put the energy and commitment into where we want to get in the Championship," he said.

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