Armagh ace Andrew Murnin steps into breach to claim star status
When Ciaron O'Hanlon, Oisin O'Neill, Stefan Campbell and Jamie Clarke made themselves unavailable for Armagh at the beginning of the year, it appeared that the last rites were about to be administered to the county's prospects of success in any competition.
But rather than curse the darkness, manager Kieran McGeeney decided to light a candle by placing his faith in St Paul's clubman Andrew Murnin who had just recovered from yet another injury.
When Murnin was pitched into the side at full-forward, there were those who viewed this as a last throw of the dice, a forlorn effort to replace the indispensable.
Now, with just a quarter of the year gone and the Ulster and All-Ireland Championships looming, Murnin has not only justified the massive vote of confidence afforded to him by McGeeney but has rocketed up to join the top full-forwards in the country.
He was again outstanding in Armagh's win over Fermanagh at Croke Park last Saturday when he scored 1-3 and, having been already named in two different team selections spanning the best players in the league overall, Murnin is poised to unleash his prodigious talents on the Ulster championship stage in which Armagh will travel to Fermanagh on May 20.
The Lurgan man's seemingly limitless stamina, thirst for the ball and inherent ability to tuck away half-chances provide McGeeney with the boost that he had been seeking.
"Andrew had to be given time to get back to full fitness but people have now witnessed what he is capable of," points out McGeeney. "His roaming and positional sense are first-class but we have to give credit, too, to the boys further outfield who can pick him out with passes."
No one is more aware of the threat Murnin can pose than Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher, who believes his side face a tough championship opener against the orchard county.
"He is a quality player who showed well in the league and will be a handful in the championship," maintains Gallagher.