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Kieran McGeeney wants a ruthless edge as Aidan Forker fills in as captain

By John Campbell

Aidan Forker is set to lead Armagh against Laois in the All-Ireland qualifier rematch between the sides on Saturday. With regular skipper Ciaran McKeever ruled out with a foot injury, manager Kieran McGeeney may turn to Maghery clubman Forker to oversee operations on the pitch in a match that could breathe new life into Armagh's Championship campaign.

McGeeney is hoping to see a better return from his attack following what he felt was marked profligacy in the first game.

"We did not take our chances and our shot selection was poor at times," he maintained.

"We had Laois trimmed back to a point and then we had four or five attacks but didn't make them count. We have to be able to take chances if we are to go forward and we certainly hope to make the most of this second bite at the cherry, although Laois will feel exactly the same way."

Beaten by Cavan in the Ulster Championship, the Orchard County looked to have brought the curtain down on their 2016 itinerary when they lost to Laois by 1-10 to 0-10 earlier this month.

But it was subsequently discovered that Laois had used seven instead of the regulation maximum of six substitutes after Shane Murphy was sent on in second-half stoppage-time to replace Brendan Quigley, who had been given a black card.

When the Central Competitions Control Committee decided that the match should be replayed, they threw a lifeline to an Armagh side that had at that point been wallowing in despair.

Their Championship travails up until then had followed a depressing league campaign that brought relegation to Division Three.

But Armagh's prospects of venturing further in the qualifiers are not helped by the fact that, as well as the loss of McKeever, they will also be without James Morgan - who is currently recovering from wrist surgery - and Mark Shields, who incurred a broken finger in the first game. Ethan Rafferty will also be an absentee.

In addition, Colm Watters and Ciaron O'Hanlon, both of whom are highly rated by McGeeney, are also thought to be extremely doubtful starters.

In contrast, Laois will welcome back the powerful John O'Loughlin, who missed the previous meeting between the sides because of suspension.

He is expected to give the midland side added bulk and ball-winning capacity in the middle third of the park and his presence could also help to further galvanise Mick Lillis' side.

With the winners due to meet Clare, there is the possibility of making further headway, but for Armagh, Saturday's game represents an out of the blue opportunity to chalk up a rare Championship win.

Belfast Telegraph


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