Unless the Armagh County Board launch a last minute appeal against the sanctions imposed by the GAA’s Hearings Committee, Paul Grimley’s team will be without Ciaran Toner, Brendan Donaghy and Andy Mallon for the Ulster semi-final against strong favourites Monaghan in Clones on Saturday night (7pm).
The three players were handed suspensions for their involvement in the mass brawl which preceded the provincial opener at the Athletic Grounds earlier this month which also led to Cavan players Martin Dunne and Fergal Flanagan receiving one match bans, both counties were also fined 5,000 euro.
At last weekend’s Croke Park meeting all three players gave their account of events on the day, but their bans were upheld and the previous sanctions stood. The Cavan County Board made no appeal against the ruling of the GAA Hearings Committee.
Although all three Armagh players would be available for any potential Ulster final should the county progress, Grimley will prepare his side in the knowledge Caolin Rafferty will also miss the game with a hand injury, a fate which has also ruled out St. Peter’s scoring ace Niall McConville.
Although six substitutes are allowed the Armagh bench will be tested to the limit if Rangers players Aaron and Tony Kernan start against Monaghan on Saturday. It is likely Carrickcruppin player Steven Harold will join Aaron Findon in midfield, it would appear injury has ruled out Aidan Forker which could leave options for players like Brian Mallon, Finnian Moriarty, Gary McCoey and Michael Murray.
Grimley certainly hasn’t had his sorrows to seek, his squad has been ravaged by injuries this year.
Monaghan on paper would be seen as the side most capable of beating Donegal in the final. The Farney men have seasoned campaigners in Vinny Corey, Ciaran McManus and Dick Clerkin who were all present in their sides provincial campaign last season, but Monaghan boss Malachy O’Rourke is taking nothing for granted.
“Armagh have a strong bench and I expect them to line out a good team,” he said. “When you get to a semi-final it’s all about what happens on the day, these games are always very tight and a score here or there may settle it.”
The fact the clash will be screened live on Sky will no doubt effect the attendance, coupled with the fact Saturday night games struggle to reach capacity, it would be expected to see no more than 10,000 attend.
Grimley’s side will give a good account of themselves against Monaghan, but it would take a huge effort to get into the final.