Armagh look to march on in qualifiers

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THE last time Laois referee Maurice Deegan was pencilled in for an Armagh game the heavens opened and his pre-game pitch inspection was carried out alongside officials who were ankle deep in water.

That particular occasion was in 2005 at Dr Hyde Park when the Orchard County were due to play Mayo in a league semi-final which eventually took place at Croke Park.

Deegan will officiate on Sunday when Paddy O’Rourke’s team play the Rossies and, although Hyde Park is expected to be in better condition despite the unseasonal weather, Armagh’s current form and indeed their modern form does not match the winning run of 2005 which saw a 17 game undefeated sequence being ended by Tyrone in a titanic All-Ireland semi-final.

The Red Hand team, which scraped home against Armagh last time out, in the provincial opener are not, it would appear, anywhere near the team which Mickey Harte led to three Sam Maguire titles.

But they were good enough to shove Armagh from the traditional route, and on to a road less travelled and lined with uncertainty.

The back door route, if successfully taken step by step, will eventually lead to a quarter-final and sudden death for all the second chance participants but looking past Sunday would be folly for an Armagh side who are not blessed with any measure of consistency.

Roscommon and Armagh, who have had some memorable battles particularly in the late seventies and early eighties, meet on Sunday in round one of the All-Ireland qualifiers and Roscommon’s form in Connacht has not been good as they struggled to build on All-Ireland titles won at both minor an under-21 level in recent years.

Their ‘last chance saloon’ meeting with Armagh on Sunday will sharpen their senses and, as they prepare to shock their Ulster opponents, Armagh fans will await the news on the injury list.

Aidan Forker, Finnian Moriarty and Aaron Kernan, who all left the action early at the Athletic Grounds early last time out, make up the bulk of the worries.

Kernan, it would appear, would have the least chance of starting.

Substitutes utilised against Tyrone, namely Gavin McPartland and Charlie Vernon, could both claim places on Sunday. Malachy Mackin and former minor star Declan McKenna, despite struggling against Tyrone, could be given

another chance and it would be a surprise to see any wholesale changes to the remaining five defensive positions.

Jamie Clarke was Armagh’s most dynamic forward against Tyrone but the county will possibly need to hit more

than fifteen points to get a result on Sunday.

Supporters will have an early start considering that the game is pencilled in for a 2pm throw in time.

Dr Hyde Park is, however, a very comfortable venue and if Paddy O’Rourke’s side can reach the same intensity that they showed against Tyrone, they should progress to the next round.