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Grugan has great belief in Armagh's firepower


Looking good: Rory Grugan is liking what he sees from Armagh's early-season battles
Looking good: Rory Grugan is liking what he sees from Armagh's early-season battles
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

After reaching the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup final, it can easily be said that Armagh have their best attacking unit of manager Kieran McGeeney's five-year reign.

For their victory over Donegal on Sunday, they had a strong full-forward line headed up by Jamie Clarke, who while starved of a great deal of the ball dropped deep and engineered some wonderful moves with his array of shimmies, even robbing the ball back off two defenders having been dispossessed in the second half.

It also included Stefan Campbell, another player who, like Clarke, sat out the 2018 season, and is another brilliant talent who not only scored three points from play - his second a gorgeous effort with the outside of the right boot from the left wing - but set up a point for the last of the trio Rian O'Neill with a clever fake to shoot before popping the ball over the defence.

Captain Rory Grugan, meanwhile, orchestrates the attack from deep, and he sealed Sunday's win with a long-distance shot after a classy dummy.

Grugan said: "The type of game I like to play, it is great to have the likes of those boys there, always showing.

"You know if you are playing the ball in, it is going to stick. There were a couple of nice moves inside and that movement inside gives us a lot of potency. It makes you a bit more of a threat when you have that in the inside line."

Donegal were the second big gun the Orchard took down in a matter of days, with Tyrone to come in the final on Saturday night. However, Grugan believes a lot of work has to be done before their new-look attack face the parsimonious defences in Division Two of the National League.

"We are probably doing alright attacking. We got 14 points. On Wednesday night we scored 13 and that is not going to win you much over the summer," said Enniskillen schoolteacher Grugan.

"We have a lot to work on. Jamie and Stefan are coming in from a year away. Rian is only 20 years of age playing for the first time so you have a full-forward line who haven't played that much for Armagh yet.

"As much as there is potential for them to work together, I think we have a lot to work on in terms of our efficiency up front.

"Not only those three boys but everyone because the best teams are scoring 20-plus scores so I would say that will be our target."

In the final minutes of the game, Grugan's brother Jack replaced Campbell. Grugan the younger is a physically imposing full-forward who scored heavily in Ballymacnab's run to the Armagh final and will provide another option.

The elder Grugan was keen to play down early-season form.

"It's January, it is a very different team from a Monaghan or Donegal team that will be starting the Championship in the summer, but from where we have come from over the last two or three years and where we want to get back to, coming into Division Two, it gives us a bit of a lift," he said.

Armagh have not beaten Tyrone in a game of any real significance since the 2014 qualifiers, but have a chance to set that right on Saturday night.

"Any time you are in with a chance of winning silverware it is nice, and for the supporters as well, but overall our bigger objective would be Division Two and the actual game preparation," insisted Grugan.

"All the training you are doing only takes you to a certain point. You have an idea of how you want to play but it is only when you test them against better opposition that you see if what you want to do actually works and I suppose we have learned plenty over the last two games and we hope to learn more next week."

Belfast Telegraph


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