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Armagh's Paul Grimley: We can seize our golden moment

By John Campbell

Armagh manager Paul Grimley is urging his side to recapture the success which the county enjoyed from 1999 until 2008 when seven Ulster titles and an All-Ireland crown were captured.

In advance of Sunday's provincial championship semi-final replay against Monaghan, Grimley has set aside his vow of silence to go so far as to say that despite their recent travails, his side are in "a good place."

It's all rather different to the build-up to last Saturday's drawn game between the sides when tension, triggered by the ultimately abortive bid to have one-match bans on Andy Mallon, Brendan Donaghy and Kieran Toner rescinded, overshadowed preparations.

His team's defiant stand in the closing minutes of a riveting Clones contest that ensured stalemate now persuades Grimley that, despite having been relegated to Division Three of the league, Armagh might just inch their way into the provincial decider against Donegal.

His enhanced selection options, a ration of new-found confidence emanating from Saturday's gutsy display and the promise of massive backing from a reinvigorated army of supporters combine to form the bedrock of Grimley's optimism.

Mallon, Donaghy and Toner are jostling for starting places while Tony Kernan, Rory Grugan and Stefan Forker, all of whom made huge contributions as substitutes last weekend, are also intent on sampling the action.

Grimley's only concerns surround slight injuries which Ethan Rafferty and Mark Shields picked up in the drawn game and they will be further assessed at training tonight.

"Before the ball was thrown in last Saturday I turned to Kieran McGeeney beside me on the touchline and remarked that this is was football is all about – blazing sunshine, a huge crowd, two teams raring to go and the prize of a place in the Ulster final for the winners," says Grimley.

"This is what players slog it out in training for and I was delighted with the way my lads responded to the demands of the occasion.

"There was a great buzz around the ground and it got me thinking that Armagh might just be capable of replicating some of the excitement and success they enjoyed several years ago. That is the challenge they face now."

Grimley, who was No 2 to Joe Kernan when Armagh won the Sam Maguire Cup for the only time in their history in 2002, is keeping his feet firmly planted on the ground, though.

"While it was a pleasure to see the orange and white colours predominate at Clones, this guarantees us nothing," insists the Pearse Og clubman.

"We have got to go out and do it all over again against a Monaghan side desperately keen to make it back to back Ulster titles.

"Just like us, they will have absorbed lessons from last Saturday's match that they will hope to put to good use this time out."

Grimley, forced to contend with an intimidating injury list for the greater part of the league, always believed that if he could get his side back to anything near full strength then they could prove a match for most teams.

"We are in a good place just now, I feel," points out the Orchard County boss.

"We have had our problems but then all teams encounter difficulties from time to time.

"Armagh followers have great memories of those Ulster title triumphs and that All-Ireland win of 12 years ago and I know they would just love us to bring a little more success to the county.

"That is our aim and that's why Sunday's replay is such a massive match.

"We are getting another bite at the cherry and we have to make the most of it.

"Much has been made of our so-called media ban but I just hope that the players will once again do their talking in the strongest possible terms where it matters most – out there on the field of play in the heat of battle."

Belfast Telegraph


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