Grimley: It must not be a black day
The battle-lines have been drawn and a war of attrition is on the cards in tomorrow's Armagh v Meath All Ireland Round 4B qualifier.
While Meath will enter the contest bearing considerable hurt from the savage criticism heaped on them following their capitulation to Dublin in the Leinster final, Armagh manager Paul Grimley will despatch his side into action hopeful that what he sees as inconsistencies in the application of the black card disciplinary measure will not tarnish the contest.
Meath skipper Kevin Reilly throws down the gauntlet to his players to respond in the best possible way to what he alludes to as "the unjust abuse" the suffered after the Dublin game by rising to the occasion against Armagh.
"When abuse of players turns personal and nasty it is very wrong. We got a lot of criticism after the Dublin game, some of it just, some unjust. Now we have to respond to this in the best possible way and that's by beating Armagh," says Reilly.
And while the long-serving Reilly is urging a big performance from his side, Armagh boss Grimley wants to see his players get a fair crack of the whip at Croke Park.
Grimley is concerned that the application of the black card disciplinary measure lacks consistency and is hoping that Clare referee Rory Hickey will be on top of his game tomorrow.
"I think the application of the advantage rule and the black card rule have not been fairly implemented so far. I think there is room for improvement here. Three or four black cards which were initially shown have since been rescinded and what does this tell you?" asks Grimley
"Obviously we have to go with the rules as they are but at times their application seems to just provide fodder for TV pundits.
"I think the players deserve to be treated fairly and while we are certainly looking forward to tomorrow's contest, we don't want to see it besmirched by any poor decision-making."
Armagh enter the fray fortified by recent qualifier wins over Roscommon and Tyrone but conscious that Meath will feel they have a big point to make after their humiliation by Dublin in the Leinster final.
The orchard county triumphed over the Royals in the league earlier in the year but Grimley is quick to put that game into context.
"Meath were only beginning to get into their stride then and while we made a decent start to the league, we were turned over by Donegal and Monaghan and then suffered relegation," he adds.
"Now that we have got a bit of momentum going in the championship we are anxious to press on and make the quarter-finals."
Jamie Clarke, Tony Kernan and Stefan Campbell will carry Armagh's scoring hopes tomorrow while Aaron Kindon and Stephen Harold will hold the fort at midfield with Ciaran McKeever, Charlie Vernon and Andy Mallon underpinning the defence.
Meath duo Stephen Bray and Michael Newman are among the best forwards in the country and have the capacity to ask big questions of the Armagh rearguard while skipper Reilly helps to anchor a defence that erred alarmingly on the side of generosity against Dublin.
Eoghan Harrington, Shane O'Rourke, Brian Meade and Donal Keogan are other key players in a side that aims to recapture Meath pride which was a hallmark when they reigned supreme in the not too distant past.