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Toner and Kavanagh set to be key men

By John Campbell

Two players who have sampled only a limited ration of championship football this summer are on stand-by to assist their teams' efforts to reach the All-Ireland semi-finals.

Armagh's Kieran Toner and Donegal ace Rory Kavanagh bring the kind of experience to the table that could have a bearing on the outcome of tomorrow's Croke Park quarter-final clash.

A protracted bout of tendonitis and then a shoulder injury have combined to trim Toner's involvement while Kavanagh's championship activity to date comprises a 30-minute spell as substitute in the Ulster final against Monaghan.

He was suspended for Donegal's Ulster championship opener against Derry and then picked up a quad injury that saw him miss the semi-final win over Antrim.

Yet, despite their recent travails, both Toner and Kavanagh unquestionably harbour a thirst for more success and remain fiercely committed to marking the twilight of their careers with more honours.

Neil Gallagher and Odhran MacNiallais formed the Donegal starting midfield pairing in the provincial decider but by the fourth quarter it was the willing Kavanagh and the abrasive Martin McElhinney who were imposing themselves in this sector.

And while manager McGuinness believes his squad is "good to go" tomorrow, he is particularly pleased to have a raft of midfield experience available to him.

"It's important that we have players in this sector who can win the ball and then help to keep us stable," says McGuinness.

"Rory got game time against Monaghan and showed that he can still be very influential. We are good to go, I am glad to say."

But while Kavanagh, who was initially brought into the Donegal squad by the then manager Mickey Moran in 2002, can expect to see a measure of action tomorrow, Toner will be used "very sparingly" if required by Armagh.

The maturing partnership of Aaron Kindon and Stephen Harold will be given another opportunity to prove that they could become a long-term fixture in the Armagh side with the experienced Toner there to provide back-up.

"Kieran has had problems with injuries recently and while he has come back to fitness we would only wish to use him very sparingly. He has been a great servant to Armagh and obviously still has much to offer," says manager Paul Grimley.

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