Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney will face a selection headache before Sunday’s Ulster semi final against Cavan at Clones 4pm.
The team boss who secured his first provincial win of his tenure when defeating Down in the opening round in Newry, will have to decided to to either stay loyal to the players who started the game, or instead hand places to Stefan Campbell, James Morgan and in Particular Andy Murnan who rescued his side with an injury time goal.
Although the game in Newry has been described as a classic, mostly due to the roller coaster nature of the contest, more questions than answers remain following the narrow win over the mourne men who were it must be stressed were Division 3 opposition.
Had Armagh lost the game to 14 man Down, many fans would have been calling for the side’s manager to go, but in retrospect McGeeney’s outfit, despite moving towards the semi final as underdogs against the Breffni men who have been playing Division 1 football, appear to have a realistic chance of reaching their first Ulster final for a decade.
Cavan are a side who are a lot more physical than Down and will play at a far faster pace, they also have one of the best play makers around in Martin Reilly who had a spell at Burnley, the blues player ironically picked up the Ulster Writers’ merit award back in 2016 following his sides provincial quarter final win over Armagh.
His current worth to Mickey Graham’s side is immense both from set pieces and from open play, and the orchard men will no doubt select to keep a close watch on his educated left foot, a deployment particularly well suited to the mobile Mark Shields.
Several Armagh players crashed on to the provincial stage against Down, the talents of Rian O’Neill although well known were further illustrated following his eight points during the contest, Jarlath Og Burns however outside his Sigerson Cup exploits was less exposed, but his movement and intelligent running in the recent win has signaled a bright future for the young midfielder.
Kieran McGeeney’s side look a lot more balanced this season, and have a decent bench, as was illustrated in the win in Newry, they will however have to play to a higher standard against Cavan who shocked Monaghan last time out.
With both Donegal and Tyrone who are the favorites to lift the title in the tougher half of the draw, Armagh and Cavan will have aspirations to create an upset, in any potential decider.
Against Down the form of the sides skipper Ruairi Gugan was a concern, particularly from set pieces, Ethan Rafferty, will take a bit longer to blossom following a period out, and although Andy Murnan may not yet be fully fit, he could again be utilized as an impact sub in the pending semi final, Niall Grimley who is still out will provide Vernon, Sheridan, and Burns with the opportunity to thrive on the vast expanses of St Tiernach’s Park .
Although the semi final stage of the Ulster series is a cruel place to bow out, considering the ‘class’ of potential final opponents, a progressing Armagh side, could benefit from an early run through the qualifiers, their team boss and players however, are only focused on reaching their first Ulster final in a decade.