Rafferty is urging Antrim to step up promotion quest
Ethan Rafferty considers himself extremely fortunate to have avoided the surgeon's knife not once but twice in recent months.
A troublesome shoulder injury had threatened to keep the Armagh utility player out of action for some time but an initial rehabilitation period proved successful when surgery had been mooted as an option.
But it was just as he was about to get back into action that the problem flared up again and it was then felt that surgery would be inevitable, yet once again the Grange clubman's period of rehabilitation helped to bring him back to full fitness.
On his return to the Orchard County line-up, UUJ graduate Rafferty was plunged into the Armagh full-forward line to help fill a vacuum created by the absence of Jamie Clarke and Stefan Campbell.
Now, following his imposing form in the Allianz League to date, Rafferty is strongly focused on seeing Armagh overcome Derry next weekend and thus take what he hopes will prove another step towards Division Two.
With 2-20 to his credit in the league to date, Rafferty is currently one of the most potent finishers on the island but prefers to assess the Orchard County's progress on the basis of a collective effort.
He helped himself to 1-6 against Sligo, pocketed 1-4 in the game against Longford and returned 0-5 against both Westmeath and Offaly.
His accuracy has helped underpin Armagh's progress but he believes bigger challenges now lie ahead as the promotion race hots up.
"All the lads have been pulling their weight but we need to really step up to the mark against Derry. This is a big game for us as they will be very keen to get the points having just won one game so far while for our part we want to keep alongside Fermanagh at the top of the table if we can," pointed out Rafferty.
Armagh skipper Rory Grugan believes that there is room for improvement following the scare his side endured in just pipping Longford and their lacklustre display against Offaly.
"I think we are capable of showing a step-up in performance," said Grugan.
"Our aim right from the start of the league has been to get up into Division Two. We came close to promotion last year and we don't want to slip up this time round if we can help it. Obviously our upcoming matches against Derry, Fermanagh and Wexford will decide whether we will succeed in achieving our goal or not."