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Old guard could be inspiration for an Ulster double


Inspiration: Ciaran McKeever

Inspiration: Ciaran McKeever

Inspiration: Ciaran McKeever

When Armagh and Monaghan embark on their All-Ireland football qualifier Round 4B missions against Meath and Kildare respectively in Saturday's attractive Croke Park double-bill, they will both lean heavily on the input of their more venerable warriors in a concerted bid to reach the quarter-finals.

Indeed, the contribution of 'golden oldies' illuminated the closing stages of the Ulster Championship to a dramatic extent and now it would seem players who have already given extended service to their counties are about to once again take front stage roles.

Armagh manager Paul Grimley makes no secret of the fact that the inspirational leadership of players such as Ciaran McKeever, Jamie Clarke, Kieran Toner, Andy Mallon, Tony Kernan and Charlie Vernon has underpinned his team's progress to date while Monaghan counterpart Malachy O'Rourke hails the spirit and drive of Dick Clerkin, Vinny Corey, Dessie Mone and Paul Finlay.

Grimley believes, too, that the more senior players can provide a helping hand to their less seasoned colleagues in the white-hot atmosphere of Croke Park on Saturday evening.

"If you look closely at the current state of play in the All-Ireland series you will see, particularly from an Ulster perspective, that it's the old hands who are really stepping up to the mark," stresses Grimley.

"I like to think that we have players who can point the way against Meath when the heat is on.

"We have boys who have played regularly at Croke Park and at the same time we have others who have never played there in an important game so it is important that our overall approach is right."

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For his part, O'Rourke welcomes the fact that his side is laced with experience but is anxious to see an overall level of cohesion and fluency surface against Kildare.

In the Ulster final, Monaghan's attacking options were strangled by Donegal's vice-like defensive mechanism which kept their key forwards imprisoned for much of the game.

Kildare are known for their attacking policy and while they boast key defenders in Henry McGrillan, Mick Foley and Emmet Bolton, they are unlikely to shackle Monaghan to quite the same extent that Donegal did .

And this is where it is expected that Monaghan's old hands will have a big part to play.

"Obviously we have players who have been round the block and the fact that they have considerable experience, too, of playing at Croke Park will be a big help, especially against a side like Kildare," said manager O'Rourke.

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