Shields in battle to make the cut for Down showdown
Armagh defender Mark Shields is hoping that he will enjoy a change in fortune in the build-up to the Ulster Championship. The Whitecross clubman suffered a calf injury and then a collar-bone fracture that have restricted his involvement with the side of late.
Now the Dublin-based physiotherapy student is hoping to enjoy a rub of the green for a change as he targets a starting place against Down in the provincial series on June 4.
It was just 48 hours before his county's penultimate game in the league against Antrim that Shields incurred his most recent injury which also ruled him out of the clash with Tipperary.
Shields, who can play at corner-back or at wing-back, had been in superb form before injuries disrupted his career at county level and he is particularly keen to make up for lost time.
"It's frustrating when you are out with injury because you don't have a role in the side but I hope that this changes for the forthcoming championship game against Down," says 27-year-old Shields.
With James Morgan and Paul Hughes having shown outstanding form towards the end of the league, he certainly faces a battle to win a place in the full-back line.
Last year he missed out on Armagh's second match against Laois in the All-Ireland qualifiers, again because of injury, but right now he has his sights set on being part of his team's championship itinerary.
"Obviously the match against Down is my prime target but I know that competition for places will be extremely keen. I am prepared to work hard to make the cut if I can as this is one match that everyone wants to play in," states Shields.
Brendan Donaghy and Ethan Rafferty are other Armagh doubts for the Down game, the former with a broken thumb and the latter because of a hamstring problem.
They missed the closing stages of the league but manager Kieran McGeeney has not given up hope on having them back in the frame for the Pairc Esler clash with the Mournemen.
"Obviously we have some players back including Andrew Murnin and Stefan Campbell, but naturally we would like to have everyone on board for the Ulster Championship," says McGeeney.
"The match against Down is looming and this is going to be a real test of character for us," adds the Orchard boss.