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Armagh manager Paul Grimley boosted by Kieran Toner's fine displays

By John Campbell

Armagh manager Paul Grimley is already lapping up an early-season bonus.

Having all but resigned himself to the fact that recurring tendonitis could have had a serious impact on the playing career of Kieran Toner, Grimley is now relishing some fine performances from the Granemore clubman – and in a new position too.

Along with James Lavery, Toner had formed the Armagh midfield partnership for several seasons until knee problems sidelined him.

Grimley, convinced that the experienced Toner had all but brought the curtain down on his county career, has since tried different engine-room permutations with a view to finding a settled combination.

And while the Armagh boss has been encouraged by the performances of players such as Stephen Harold, Ethan Rafferty, Feilim O Neill and Aaron Findon in the central area, he has been further heartened by the return of Toner to the centre-half-back berth.

Toner, who will fulfil the position again against Donegal tomorrow, played his part in bringing Armagh into the O'Fiaich Cup final last month in which they lost to Derry in extra-time and in helping carve a handsome win over Queen's last Sunday in the Power NI Dr McKenna Cup.

Now he looks set to enjoy and extended run in his central defensive role, much to Grimley's relief.

"I honestly thought that the severity of Kieran's tendonitis could have ruled him out of the side but he has battled back well and is now playing some good stuff," states Grimley.

"He is a joiner by trade and this can mean that he will be on his knees a lot in the course of his work and that probably hasn't helped matters. But he is strong and it's great to have him."

Philip McEvoy, James Lavery, and Stefan Forker are brought into the starting line-up to the exclusion of Niall Geoghegan, Stephen Harold and Eugene McVerry.

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness's assertion that he is down to "the bare bones" in terms of his team selection because of injuries cuts little ice with Grimley.

"He will have players coming in who will be very keen to impress. That will certainly not make it any easier for us," states Grimley.

Armagh: P McEvoy; A Mallon, C Vernon, G McCooey; M Shields, K Toner, C Rafferty; E Rafferty, J Lavery; O MacIomhair, B Mallon, S Campbell; R Tasker, S Forker, N McConville.

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