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Paul Grimley is now facing a major test of his ability

By John Campbell

Armagh manager Paul Grimley could find his midfield options trimmed for next weekend's All-Ireland football qualifier against old rivals Tyrone at Healy Park, Omagh.

Ethan Rafferty, who had been battling against injury prior to Sunday's Ulster semi-final replay defeat to Monaghan, did not take any part in the game while Kieran Toner, who had just returned to the side having served a one-match suspension, had to be replaced at half time by Stephen Harold.

Toner was hurt immediately prior to the break and was unable to resume with Harold again striking up a midfield partnership with Aaron Kindon, the duo having manned the engine-room during their team's Allianz League Division Two campaign.

Now Grimley could find himself short of cover against a Tyrone side which, ironically, boasts a rather more impressive list of midfield candidates at this point in time than it has done of late.

Sean Cavanagh played there in the opening round qualifier win over Louth while his brother Colm has been the mainstay of the middle third of the park this season, maturing into a combative force very much central to manager Mickey Harte's strategy.

Conan Grugan made his championship debut in the defeat to Monaghan while Conor Clarke is also in the reckoning, although he has been recovering from injury.

Joe McMahon returned to action as a substitute against Louth and can be depended upon to pull the midfield strings.

Armagh go into this game licking their physical and psychological wounds following their defeat to Monaghan which saw manager Grimley concede the tactical battle to his opposite number Malachy O'Rourke.

The Orchard County boss has yet to re-establish his previously healthy rapport with the media following his ban on publicity of late, a consequence of the reaction to his team's involvement in the unseemly fracas that preceded their win over Cavan.

But while he keeps his counsel for now, Grimley knows that he now faces perhaps the biggest test of his managerial career to date.

Not only must he motivate his side to face a Tyrone outfit that will be warm favourites, but he must devise a strategy that will help contain a Red Hands attack that was in rampant form against helpless Louth.

He is likely to deploy a sweeper given that his defensive alignment will be crucial.

And he may revert to the two-man inside line of Stefan Campbell and Jamie Clarke that proved a useful unit within his side in the drawn game against Monaghan.

Armagh encountered difficulty on Sunday past in providing a service for Clarke in particular and it was only after the side adopted a more adventurous approach after the break that he profited by scoring five points.

Tyrone are certain to erect the shutters – and Grimley now knows he has barriers to break down both on and off the field.

Belfast Telegraph


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