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Fringe stars find cure for McGeeney's headaches

 

By John Campbell

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney has been given an unexpected boost as he turns his attention to the forthcoming Ulster Senior Football Championship.

For the greater part of the Allianz League in which his side gained promotion to Division Two, McGeeney was forced to make changes to his defence because of injuries and unavailability.

The decisions of Shea Heffron and James Morgan not to link up with the panel and the injuries suffered since then by Paul Hughes and Mark Shields have meant that McGeeney has been forced to amend his rearguard.

Yet in doing so he appears to have unearthed defensive gems that have helped to stoke confidence in advance of what will be a third meeting of the season with Fermanagh, only on this occasion progress in the provincial Championship will be at stake.

The loss of Crossmaglen player Morgan was initially regarded as a big blow while it was thought that the extended absence of Shields would impact on the team's progress. But McGeeney's response to what was a difficult selection challenge was both prompt and decisive.

The upshot is that two players who were virtually unknown at the start of the league campaign - goalkeeper Blaine Hughes and right-full-back Patrick Burns - have now nailed down regular slots in the Orchard side.

At the same time, Aaron McKay, Gregory McCabe and Niall Rowland have not only morphed into competent defenders but they are also showing that they are unafraid to link up with the attack.

Against Fermanagh at the weekend, Burns scored two superb points while McCabe and Rowland contributed one each to lend substance to McGeeney's theory that everyone should be capable of finishing accurately.

Belfast Telegraph

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