GAA Football

Rory Grugan sees promising signs for Armagh attack

Armagh forward Rory Grugan (left) says it’s a joy to have an inside line that wants the ball kicked. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

IN many ways, Rory Grugan is the quintessential throwback, a roaming number 11 with the eye for a pocket of space and the left foot to find it.

The 2018 Allstar nominee picked Donegal's pocket with the most sumptuous of dummies before landing the winning point at the death on Sunday, landing the winning point in a game that Armagh deserved to win.

Their run to the McKenna Cup final has been solid, with big scores against St Mary's (6-17) and Antrim (2-21) backed up by grittier one-point victories over Monaghan and the Tír Chonaill men.

Andy Murnin's absence has barely been noted in an attack that's welcomed back Jamie Clarke and Stefan Campbell, as well as introducing Rian O'Neill to senior inter-county football.

Throw in Grugan's brother Jack, off the back of a fine club championship campaign, and you envisage no shortage of attacking options for Kieran McGeeney come summer time.

While Grugan admits it's a joy to have an inside line that wants the ball kicked, it's early season yet.

“We are probably doing alright attacking. We got 14 points. On Wednesday night [against Monaghan] we scored 13 and that is not going to win you much over the summer.

“We have a lot to work on. Jamie and Stefan are coming in from a year away. Rian is only 20 years of age playing for the first time so you have a full-forward line who haven't played that much for Armagh yet.

“As much as there is potential for them to work together, I think we have a lot to work on in terms of our efficiency up front. Not only those three boys but everyone because the best teams are scoring twenty plus scores so I would say that will be our target.

“The type of game I like to play, it is great to have the like of those boys there, always showing. You know if you are playing the ball in, it is going to stick.

“There were a couple of nice moves inside and that movement inside gives us a lot of potency. It makes you a bit more of a threat when you have that in the inside line.”

A connoisseur of the kick-pass, Grugan told The Irish News back in October that he felt the implementation of a limit on handpasses will “encourage the more cynical teams to defend in such a way that you can essentially put no pressure on the ball out the field”.

In some circumstances during this pre-season trial phase, his early thoughts have manifested themselves, with Fermanagh and Tyrone last week engaging in very little attacking play for the first 35 minutes of a game that was level at 0-2 apiece at the break.

Retaining an open mind on the idea, Grugan said that Armagh are starting to become accustomed to the changes and said that the rest of the rule changes “are not having an overly massive impact”.

“I suppose in the first half Donegal got a point from an advanced mark, I would be a big enough advocate of that rule, it encourages kick passes. We didn't get any ourselves.

“The handpass, as far as I am aware we didn't get any penalties for it today and that is the first time we haven't been penalised since they came in. We are starting to get used to it.

“I suppose it's a case of counting it yourselves as the referees have enough to do and sometimes you kind of forget yourself and that's when we got caught out.

“Donegal maybe got caught out twice at the end when they were trying to break us down, they got down for four passes.

“It is more about trying to get used to it. I don't know if it cures the ills, I don't know what they are trying to fix but I suppose you have to give these things a bit more time.”

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