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The inside track: Armagh versus Monaghan

James Morgan v Conor McManus

By Declan Bogue

In the first half of his Championship debut against Cavan, Findon appeared rattled and unsettled, quite understandable considering the frantic nature of the start after the scenes around the pre-match parade.

However, he grew into the task and showed how his courage has grown in engaging in a bumping match with Dick Clerkin just before the ball was thrown in for the second half. Moments later, he met Vincent Corey with an enormous shoulder and put him to the grass.

Hughes is a midfielder who likes to get forward and although he has an impressive range of sidesteps that he likes to showcase, Ciaran McKeever and company in the Armagh defence prevented him from getting inside and making the kind of chances such as the Dermot Malone goal against Tyrone, created by a Hughes run when he got inside the defensive shell.

This duel cannot be underestimated in the outcome.

James Morgan v Conor McManus

A TIGERISH defender, Morgan has already humbled Eugene Keating this summer and was restricting McManus to one point from play before the Monaghan captain's black card dismissal.

Given that McManus had a few weeks' recovery since the win over Tyrone, his leg injury was able to stand up to an increased workload and he displayed this in his first half point, after Vinny Corey fielded a kickout and sent him away downfield before he converted from distance.

Although he was specifically given a role marking McManus, Morgan also drove forward when required. Defensively, he was sound and contributed to rushing Kieran Hughes in a couple of first half efforts that went wide.

McManus will look for a better return this weekend and given that Monaghan failed to create a single goal opportunity, may need to be played closer to goal instead of foraging for possession.

Ciaran McKeever v Kieran Duffy

With Brendan Donaghy expected to return to the centre-back position, Aaron Kernan will probably be named in the half-forward line in place of Aidan Forker, only to drop back and play wing-back, freeing McKeever up to play sweeper.

As the free man in defence, McKeever got onto a mountain of ball and is composed in possession. Monaghan may feel they afforded him too much space, but such a development is unavoidable when both teams employ sweepers.

However, while McKeever was proactive as a sweeper, often providing the first tackle in defence and being ever available to start an attack, Monaghan got significantly less return from their sweeper. Kieran Duffy was often caught out of position and did not double-team Jamie Clarke with Colin Walshe.

Should he be placed directly in front of Clarke and join in with the efforts to dispossess him, Monaghan could tighten up defensively.

What Armagh must do

The first half of games are always more conservative, and it was noticeable how Armagh only scored when they attempted shots from the central shooting corridor.

In gaining primary possession from kickouts, they pulled out to the limits of each wing and carved open a free man to build from the back, but they could do with getting Aaron Kernan on the ball sooner in their attacks.

Tony Kernan offered so much more of a scoring and link-up threat than Kyle Carragher when he was on, so we are likely to see a full-forward line of Kernan, who would roam out to the half-forwards, with Stefan Campbell and Jamie Clarke inside.

Given Clarke's spacial awareness and creativity, they will keep rotating him in and out of the 45 metre zone.

Their defensive structure was impressive last week, but they need to watch for long range frees that Rory Beggan will convert. Don't be surprised if Armagh have a plan for Beggan coming forward.

What Monaghan must do

First off, Monaghan need to get their defensive match-ups right. The mobility of Kevin Dyas was always likely to cause problems, but after the first half it was evident that they needed to switch Vincent Corey off him, and send Dessie Mone to track him.

They also need to decide how best to tackle Jamie Clarke. He was a constant thorn in their side, but he was left isolated on Colin Walshe as he drifted in and out of the scoring zone.

The drawn game was the first time this season that their half-back line was held scoreless, and Armagh did everything they needed through fair means or foul to stop Darren Hughes getting too far forward.

With rain showers and a 20km wind forecast for Clones tomorrow, they will need to be less reliant on Rory Beggan's frees and get more return closer to goal.

More game time for Paul Finlay would assist in getting quality ball inside to Kieran Hughes and Conor McManus.



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