Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

We must sharpen up for league campaign: Grimley

New Armagh manager Paul Grimley is hoping his team can emerge from the starting blocks at full pelt when the Allianz League swings into action next month.

Grimley has had to endure two false starts this month with his side having only played 140 minutes of football in total.

And the figure 20 has already taken on sombre significance for the manager given the trend that the games to date against Cavan and Down took.

By the 20th minute against the Breffni side, the Orchard County were 2-3 to 0-3 adrift — eventually losing 3-9 to 1-11 — and at the same juncture in the clash with Down they were in arrears by 1-6 to 0-2, the Mourne side emerging victorious by 2-11 to 1-10.

“We made things hard for ourselves in the first quarter of each game and we must resolve to try and get off to a good start in our opening league game against Laois,” stressed Grimley.

“We are making things hard for ourselves and given the level of inexperience in our side I was happy to note the way the lads came back in each game.

“They were staring down the barrel of heavy defeats but they finished with considerable credit because of their resilience and commitment.”

Armagh may have collected seven Ulster titles since 1999 but Grimley concedes that the glory days are gone for now.

“We have a long way to go. People will have to be patient as we are engaged in a team-building process. A number of players who have been around for a while have gone so we have to compile what will be a new-look side,” he said.

But Grimley can take inspiration from the leadership qualities currently being displayed by his skipper Ciaran McKeever.

The St Patrick’s Cullyhanna man was not initially included in the starting line-up to face Cavan and was only drafted in when Stephen Finnegan was ruled out.

In the event his drive, physical strength and distribution proved vital in hauling the team back into a game in which they were clearly struggling.

McKeever was also on the bench for the game against Down on Wednesday night but answered a 22nd minute SOS to replace the luckless Finnegan.

McKeever stemmed the tide, not only shoring up the defence but launching a series of counter-attacks that paved the way for a stunning third quarter recovery which was only undermined when Paul McComiskey flicked in Down’s second goal.

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