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The inside track: Armagh take on Monaghan

By Declan Bogue

Our Gaelic Games correspondent tackles all the battles in the big game both on and off the field

Head to head

Kieran Hughes v Charlie Vernon

In last year's Ulster final, it was his aerial ability in reaching greater heights than Donegal's Neil McGee that made him such a disruptive influence.

In the last round, that quality was displayed when a dropping ball into the box was about to be dealt with by Justin McMahon before Hughes got a touch to it. The break was seized upon by Dessie Mone, who won a penalty that Hughes would strike the post with. We don't know if it was the presence of Tyrone's Conor Clarke standing behind the goals that distracted him, but it would hardly have helped.

Vernon will be wary of Hughes' athleticism. He handled David Givney well against Cavan and he also kept Niall McDermott scoreless, but he needs to be wary of the ground Hughes can cover.


Colin Walshe v Jamie Clarke

Playing with Jordanstown this year, Walshe was a team mate of Tyrone's Ronan O'Neill and Armagh's Jamie Clarke.

Possibly for that reason, Malachy O'Rourke told Walshe a couple of days before they played the Red Hands that he was on O'Neill. Any potential dummies or 'tells' that O'Neill had in his movement, Walshe was bound to know, having trained and played alongside him. The ploy worked, O'Neill departing the fray after 41 minutes. He hadn't a shot all day, barely even a touch of the ball.

Clarke will be well aware of how rugged and uncompromising the Doohamlet All-Star is, but the Armagh forward needs to be brought into the gameplan much more than he was against Cavan.

He scored two points from play, while a wild shot was retrieved by Caolan Rafferty for Armagh's goal.

This tussle will have a major bearing in Armagh's effectiveness.


Dessie Mone v Kevin Dyas

An undoubted athlete that was valued enough to spend a few years with Collingwood in the AFL, Dyas' greatest problem wasn't of his own making, but of Armagh's in not finding a way to transfer his physical gifts into a suitable system.

They appear to have corrected that with Dyas being the outlet for any clearances against Cavan. His energy, strength and ball control meant he could hold the ball up while he waited for the likes of Mark Shields and, latterly, Aaron Kernan to come with a support run off the shoulder.

Mone tracked Tyrone's energetic Ciaran McGinley in the last game and likes to keep his opponent nervous about his own movement. Has been scoring in most of his games this year and will look to nullify Dyas' influence by getting forward at every chance.

When he does go forward, should Dyas remain in the forward, expect Kieran Duffy to pick him up.

Armagh tactics

They should recall Aaron Kernan to the half-back line and retain Mark Shields, replacing a wing-forward with Finian Moriarty to create a sweeping role for Ciaran McKeever.

At midfield, resources are spread very thin, with Ethan Rafferty perhaps returning from full-forward and this really is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. With Eoin Lennon poised to make a comeback, it would appear that Monaghan have the edge here, unless Armagh are brave and put Stephen Harold in from the start of the game, freeing up Rafferty to maintain a physical presence in the full-forward line.

It could be a difficult day for Jamie Clarke who appears to be slowly draining of the confidence that he so effortlessly exudes while playing in the club colours of Crossmaglen.

James Morgan is not afraid of a physical challenge and he will alternate between Conor McManus and Kieran Hughes depending on McManus' fitness.

Monaghan tactics

The game must be won without getting too concerned over the aesthetics of getting there.

Fintan Kelly was for many observers their man of the match against Tyrone. He scored in five different games throughout the National League and added two fine points in Clones a fortnight ago.

With Dessie Mone also scoring for the seventh consecutive game, it shows that Monaghan are not as cautious as you might initially think.

They ruthlessly punish mistakes from the opposition, as witnessed by their goal against Tyrone when Peter Harte inexplicably left his man, Dermot Malone.

Expect Monaghan to typically set up a roadblock in their own defensive territory to grind the opposition down. They also have the highest percentage of their own kickouts won in Ulster (73%).

At the back, they will place Colin Walshe on Jamie Clarke, and

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