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McGeeney is up for a final fling despite injury issues

 

By John Campbell

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney has had good reason to dwell on what appears to have been an ever-mounting injury list as the Allianz Football League has unfolded.

McGeeney has found himself burrowing deep into his squad to plug gaps as a succession of injuries has prevented him from fielding a more settled side.

Yet, despite this, the Orchard County have still managed to gain promotion to Division Two, but now McGeeney is keen to see his side lay down a marker for the Ulster Championship by getting the better of Fermanagh in Saturday's Division Three final at Croke Park.

When the sides met earlier this month in the league, they played out a dour, uncompromising draw at Brewster Park, Enniskillen.

It was a match that saw the host side drop a point before they surrendered two more against Westmeath, but then recovered to inch past Longford at the weekend, thus clinching promotion.

If McGeeney has not had his problems to seek in terms of parading fully-fit personnel, then he has been provided with slivers of comfort for Saturday's Croke Park showdown.

Gavin McParland has thrust himself back into the spotlight by the manner in which he scored three points against Wexford on Sunday, Oisin MacIomhair is pressing strongly for a starting place having been deployed as a substitute for the most part in the league and Patrick Burns appears to be regaining his fitness after injury.

An experienced corps including Charlie Vernon, Aidan Forker, Niall Grimley, Rory Grugan and Paddy Morrison did not start against Wexford but are in the frame to see action from the outset against Rory Gallagher's team, although Morrison may have difficulty displacing Blaine Hughes in the No.1 shirt.

Meanwhile, Mark Shields, Ethan Rafferty, Ryan McShane and Joe McElroy are all understood to be making progress from recent injuries.

While injuries have tended to blight Armagh's league campaign, McGeeney has concerns in another sphere as well.

"Quite simply, we have not been making the most of our scoring chances," pointed out McGeeney.

"We have been returning a high total of wides in games. Last Sunday against Wexford we shot 16 wides and that tells its own story.

"We might have improved in the second half after not scoring in the first half but we still fell short."

The Armagh boss will be expecting a much greater degree of accuracy from his attack this weekend, but his team may not find it any easier to score against Fermanagh's well-structured defence this time out than they did in that earlier meeting between the sides at Brewster Park.

McGeeney's men may not have been hitting the high spots when it comes to amassing huge scoring totals but, on the other hand, the side have conceded just 3-72 to date, thus giving them the best defensive record in Division Three.

Indeed, Antrim in Division Four (1-64) have conceded the least scores of any side in the league with Galway (1-80) and Monaghan (1-97) not too far behind them.

Even All-Ireland champions Dublin have tended to be rather generous at the back in conceding 5-84 in their seven matches.

While McGeeney hails his players' commitment, he is clearly seeking a much more positive scoring return at Headquarters.

"I can't fault the lads for effort, they are all giving it everything, but at the end of the day it's important that we take our chances," he stressed.

"It was difficult to get scores against Fermanagh the last day but we can come good on Sunday."

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