Wexford plan to vent frustration in return to Armagh
Wexford manager Aidan O'Brien has suffered a double dose of frustration lately and that could bode ill for Armagh when the sides meet in Division Two of the Allianz Football League tomorrow.
The Slaneysiders made the trip to the Orchard county on Sunday week last only to discover the match had been called off because of a waterlogged pitch and, since then, O'Brien has learned that long-serving midfield ace Eric Bradley is departing to Australia.
But the Wexford boss plans to summon an extra-special effort from his team against an Armagh side that has yet to win a game this year.
"It was very disappointing, indeed annoying, the way in which the game was called off a fortnight ago," says O'Brien.
"Counties are supposed to have a secondary ground on standby for such a circumstance but the Crossmaglen venue was out of bounds because work is being undertaken to the playing surface there, I understand.
"We have a seven-hour round journey tomorrow and I hope we can make this a worthwhile exercise but I am disappointed that we won't have Eric Bradley."
For a number of years Bradley has been the mainstay of the Wexford midfield and has also served the county in other positions.
But if O'Brien has his midfield concerns so too has his Armagh counterpart Paul Grimley.
James Lavery got a starting place against Laois in the opening league match but tomorrow Grimley pairs the experienced Kieran Toner and rookie Stephen Harold in his engine-room in the hope their combined bulk and work-rate can discomfit the visitors.
Charlie Vernon is still recovering from a foot injury while James Donnelly, who had initially been blooded at midfield, is now playing more regularly at full-back in place of the injured Brendan Donaghy who, however, will be on the bench tomorrow.
Grimley must surely feel, though, that he could benefit from the inclusion of Crossmaglen duo David McKenna and Johnny Hanratty in his squad, although he is still resisting the temptation to bring players from the club back too quickly following their All Ireland club exit.
In last Saturday's semi-final defeat to St Brigid's, Hanratty was immense in the first-half, consistently garnering quality possession, while skipper McKenna spearheaded a splendid show of defiance in the last quarter that just fell short.
"Stephen Harold is a young player with a good work ethic who deserves his chance while Kieran Toner is a very experienced player, but I know that we face a big test at midfield tomorrow," concedes Grimley.
Wexford have a shoal of experienced players in their side including Anthony Masterson, Redmond Barry and P J Bannville and Grimley is wary that the visitors' frustration over the recent postponement could manifest itself in a particularly spirited display.
"Obviously they will want to get the two points more than ever now, but we are just as hungry as they are. We said at the outset of the league that we had to try and maximise home advantage when we have it and that's the challenge for us in this one," adds Grimley.