Manager Kieran McGeeney returns but Armagh sweat over injured quartet ahead of Fermanagh clash
ARMAGH are definitely without suspended midfielder Stephen Sheridan and could also be minus James Morgan (suspended pending an appeal) and injured quartet Aidan Forker, Mark Shields, Niall Grimley and Brendan Donaghy for Saturday's crucial Division Two meeting with Fermanagh in Crossmaglen.
Victory at Oliver Plunkett Park could see the Ernemen promoted and, depending on other results, leave Armagh bottom of the table and in grave danger of relegation. On the flipside, a win for the Orchardmen will ease them back to the fringes of the promotion race and they could still finish above Fermanagh if they also win their final game against Cork and the Ernemen lose to Meath.
With lots still to play for, manager Kieran McGeeney will return to the dugout after serving a touchline ban but midfielder Sheridan is serving a two-game suspension for a stamp on Donegal's Eoghan Ban Gallagher in round five. Morgan was red-carded in that game but Armagh have appealed the decision.
“Stephen has accepted his suspension and held his hands up, it was totally uncharacteristic and that's done and dusted,” said assistant-manager Jim McCorry.
“James Morgan is a physical, robust player but in the Donegal game he was going in as a peacemaker and it will be very harsh if the appeal isn't upheld and he isn't free to play this weekend.
“All we want is a fair hearing for James and anybody looking at the video evidence couldn't give him a suspension. I can understand the referee (Martin McNally) wanting to take decisive action because it was a heated, attritional Ulster game but most people would agree that he got that one (the Morgan red card) wrong.
“James should be free to play in our view but we'll see what the authorities say on it when the appeal comes up this week.”
The red card against Donegal was Morgan's second of the year after he was sent off for two yellow cards in the McKenna Cup final against Tyrone and McCorry says the Crossmaglen clubman's uncompromising reputation now precedes him.
“James would be the first to tell you that he brings a lot on himself because of the nature of his play,” said McCorry.
“He is a physical man-marker and forwards don't like him marking them but he probably is a player who people have a pre-determined view on, which is very unfair.
“In this case he was the man who was trying to break it up but he is the one who was punished for it. I hope people will see sense.”
Fermanagh and Armagh met three times last season. The Ulster rivals drew 0-7 apiece in an attritional Division Three clash before Armagh won the contrastingly free-flowing Division Three final 1-16 to 0-17 just a fortnight later. In the Ulster Championship clash that followed, the Orchardmen were unable to get to grips with Fermanagh's clever counter-attacking set-up and lost 0-12 to 0-7.
Donaghy, Grimley, Forker and Shields all started that game and McCorry rates all four as “extremely doubtful” for Saturday.
“Niall had to come off against Donegal with an ankle injury and we lost Aidan Forker and Brendan Donaghy before that with hamstring strains,” he said.
“They have been unable to do full training with us for the last week but the physios have been working very hard with all of them but as of our last training session all of them remain extremely doubtful.
“Not having them available for Fermanagh is a big one for us but getting Ethan Rafferty back was a big plus. Ryan Kennedy has come back from injury and has been playing well and Joe McElroy, who is an integral part of all we do, has been fantastic for us.
“If those guys aren't available we have a good strong squad and we'll see what the rest of the week brings with the injured players.”