Pushing for places in the county squad

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THE competition for places in the Armagh squad for the National Football League is intense.

Whilst the return of the Crossmaglen players, Steven McDonnell’s arrival, which is expected in the late spring, and the possibility of a new dawn for the fortunes of Ronan Clarke could all lead to a successful summer.

But for the moment it would appear that upcoming fixtures against Cork, Kerry and Dublin could take on a championship life of their own.

There is no doubt that the return of Paul Grimley has freshened things up both for the supporters and the players and the Pearse Ogs man, when speaking to the ‘MAIL’ at the start of the season, underlined the need to throw the net far and wide in the search for new talent.

North Armagh Gaels can rest assured that their players will get a fair crack of the whip.

Grimley said: “Players from Lurgan and Portadown and indeed the greater north Armagh area are as good as any other part of the county. We want to give good footballers their chance to show what they can do for Armagh.”

Whilst it would appear that the chances of breaking into a tightly knit Armagh rearguard would be difficult for a new recruit, considering that Moriarty, Duffy, Mallon, Donaghy and McKeever are all seasoned campaigners, up front, should the Armagh management elect to go for all out attack, at least two forward positions could be up for grabs.

Clan na Gael’s Stephan Campbell, who was a part of the Armagh minor squad which won the All-Ireland title back in 2009 and missed out on the end of last year’s club season through suspension, has been impressing the Armagh management recently.

His intense work rate at training and in matches to date earned him a rest in the county’s last McKenna Cup game against monaghan. It would be a surprise if Campbell didn’t start against Cork in the league opener.

Another player who made headlines for the county recently is Tir na nOg’s Paul Carville who rescued Armagh’s fortunes against Monaghan last time out.

Carville hit three sublime frees in the game but his remit stretches a lot further than that.

Paul said: ”You are always going to make the headlines when you hit a winning score. I knocked over three in the game against Monaghan but I believe, like other forwards, I would have a lot more to offer than accuracy from set pieces.”

He was part of his club’s all county under 21 championship team which won the title back in 2004 when he played along side Brian Mallon and the stylish Barry McDonald.

He had a spell with Glenavon but more recently was part of Pat McGibbon’s squad at Irish League championship side Newry City who also had Brian Mallon on their books.

But at the moment, like several other county candidates, Paul Carville would welcome a National League place with open arms.

He said: “Pat has been understanding around all of this. He knows I would be keen to get into the county squad for the National League and as usual he has been a real gentleman so all of that has allowed me to focus on training with the county squad.”

Unlike some of the rookies who are pushing for places on the Armagh panel Paul Carville has a wealth of club experience to call upon. His blistering pace and clever positional sense, which he has been utilising at club level for years, has now come to the attention of the Armagh management.

Armagh’s squad will be announced next week and the Tir na nOg player would love to be part of it.

“All players want to play for their county and it would be great to get some game time during the National League.” added Paul.

Although the county’s senior team suffered a dip in form, particularly with the heavy defeat against Derry last season, there is renewed hope amongst the supporters that 2012 could bring better fortunes.

It has been general knowledge that the side had been operating in recent years without genuine talent particularly in the half forward line.

With Jamie Clarke being the only Crossmaglen forward guaranteed his place other players like Stephan Campbell, Andrew Murnin from St Paul’s, Eugene McVerry who is a former minor star and indeed Paul Carville will all be pushing for places.