Armagh manager Paddy O’Rourke may be forced to dip into his well of youthful talent sooner than had been anticipated.
A battalion of players from the team that won the All-Ireland Minor title in 2009 could shortly find themselves jostling for recognition in the senior line-up as O’Rourke seeks to plug the early-season gaps that will be created by the absence of Steven McDonnell, Ronan Clarke, Jamie Clarke, Kieran Toner, Aaron Kernan, Paul Hearty and Tony Kernan.
While O’Rourke can still count on Andy Mallon, Brendan Donaghy, Ciaran McKeever, David McKenna, Gareth Swift, Charlie Vernon, Paul Duffy, James Lavery, Michael O’Rourke and Billy Joe Padden, there is no doubt he will need to bolster this seam of experience with additional resources if Armagh are to have make an impact in the McKenna Cup and National League.
And it’s to those players from the all-conquering 2009 Minor squad whose careers have continued to chart an upward graph that O’Rourke will now look.
Gavin McParland and Rory Grugan gained further experience at senior level in the Orchard County attack this year and will get the chance to improve further in 2012 while Declan McKenna, the ’09 skipper, has underlined his credentials as a utility defender. Eugene McVerry may also get the nod from O’Rourke while the manager will conduct a close study of his midfield options.
Armagh currently boast just one available seasoned player in Charlie Vernon. The injury-prone James Lavery may be available on a more consistent basis but with Kieran Toner out of the equation at present, O’Rourke could find himself assessing the claims of Peter Carragher and James Donnelly sooner rather than later.
It was this duo that provided the basis for Armagh’s All Ireland Minor coup of two years ago.
The prospects of Armagh hitting the ground running in 2012 may not be particularly bright but any early-season malaise will be overlooked should fresh faces blend in quickly prior to the return of the Crossmaglen Rangers brigade.