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Rory Grugan injury a major concern for Armagh chief Kieran McGeeney

By John Campbell

Armagh skipper Rory Grugan could be in danger of missing his team's Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final against Fermanagh at Brewster Park, Enniskillen on May 19.

It is understood that Grugan, a schoolteacher in Enniskillen, sustained an elbow injury while assisting his club Ballymacnab in a league game and is now racing against the clock to make the cut for his county's biggest game of the year to date.

Grugan has been hugely influential in the Armagh side both as a leader and playmaker. He played a big part in taking the side into Division Two of the league, and although he did not score in the recent Division Three final against Rory Gallagher's side, he nonetheless exerted a big influence on proceedings.

His ability to link play, deliver pinpoint passes, track back when the opposition is in possession and convert frees make him an invaluable member of Kieran McGeeney's line-up.

Next month's meeting between Armagh and Fermanagh will be their third this year, with their league encounter having been drawn - 0-7 each - before Armagh came out on top in the divisional final.

But Armagh are not reading too much into that win in terms of the championship confrontation according to full-forward Andrew Murnin.

"It will be a different contest on a tighter pitch and Fermanagh will have big backing from their fans. While we were grateful to pick up silverware at Croke Park we know now that we will really be judged on how we perform in the championship," states Murnin.

Defender Mark Shields has made a return to full fitness and will give manager McGeeney more selection options at the back.

Shields, a Dublin-based physiotherapy student, has been making big sacrifices in terms of travel - he was seconded to Waterford for a spell as well - to serve Armagh and is particularly anxious to regain a starting place in the side.

His work ethic, pace and durability ensure that he will exert pressure on the current incumbents in the side when the championship moves into top gear.

And Connaire Mackin, brother of Orchard county ladies football scoring ace Aimee Mackin, is also pressing for inclusion in McGeeney's championship line-up following his impressive display when he made his debut at left-full-back in the Division Three final.

Mackin was an eleventh-hour replacement for Jamie Cosgrove as competition for the position vacated by the injured Paul Hughes intensified.

Ryan McShane, Oisín Mac Iomhair, Oisín Lappin, Anthony Duffy and Ronan Lappin are other players who will be pushing strongly for championship recognition.

Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher, meanwhile, looks certain to keep Conal Jones at full-forward and he is likely to be flanked there by the Quigley brothers Sean and Seamus.

Sean incurred a black card in the third minute of the Division Three final earlier this month and took no further part in the proceedings having been replaced by Ciaran Corrigan.

Indeed, the latter had initially been listed at right-half forward before making way for Tom Clarke prior to the start.

With Eamonn Maguire, Daniel Teague and Kane Connor among the players now strongly focused on making it into his starting line-up, Gallagher, like McGeeney, may have some big decisions to make.

Meanwhile, Monaghan ace Conor McManus launched the GAA Super Games Centre at the county's training complex yesterday. Such Centres are being launched throughout the country.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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