GAA Football

Armagh can still play a part in final day drama

RETURN: Armagh defender James Morgan is free to play against Cork having missed the Fermanagh victory through suspension Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
By Padraig Kelly

ARMAGH are playing the role of ‘odd one out' in Division Two this weekend as they round off their League campaign with a home game against Cork.

Kieran McGeeney's side are the only team of the second tier octet with nothing to play for as the National League pre-finals stage draws to a close.

Tomorrow's visitors are fighting relegation alongside fellow Munster counties Tipperary and Clare. Ulster and Leinster, meanwhile, are battling it out for promotion with two of Donegal, Fermanagh, Kildare and Meath set to go up.

We can assume then that the Rebels will be going at full pelt to save their skin, but what about Armagh?

No doubt their preparations would have been spot on, but the real work was done last week against Fermanagh so intensity levels can surely only drop.

It was clear from well out that the Orchard county were going to take the two points against Fermanagh, but that didn't stop plenty of fist-pumping at the full-time whistle. They had put a lot into that game but they have no real reason to get as invested in this one.

We will get a clear indication of Armagh's intent a few minutes before throw-in when the team – and any late changes – is announced.

McGeeney will need to balance the scales. He'll want another win to bring into the Ulster Championship game with Down in May but he'll also want to avoid any unnecessary injuries.

Aidan Forker didn't look comfortable exiting the pitch last week and will almost certainly be rested while Mark Shields may also be wrapped in cotton wool.

Outfielders Aaron McKay, Greg McCabe, Niall Grimley, Jemar Hall and Rory Grugan have started all six games and some of those could be due a rest. Hall in particular has run himself into the ground and may get a chance to put the feet up.

There'll likely be more minutes for Brendan Donaghy and Ethan Rafferty though. The Clonmore defender has played only 70 in the League, but they were 70 of the very best in a superb display against Fermanagh.

Likewise Rafferty has only played 41 minutes plus injury time but he looked razor sharp last time out as he grabbed the only goal following a powerful run along the endline.

James Morgan returns from suspension but Stephen Sheridan is serving the second half of a two-game ban.

It's been a frustrating campaign for Armagh but satisfactory also.

The last few years have seen them to and fro between Division Two and Three so their main aim was consolidation.

Still though, they claimed draws from the jaws of victory against Kildare and Clare while they were in a golden position against Meath before a slow finish cost them.

They really should have been right in the promotion mix this weekend but they'll not lose too much sleep.

There will be restless nights for Cork if they lose though. That would confirm relegation and Division Three football just nine years after lifting the Sam Maguire.

That would be a rapid descent but they'll still feel they can find their footing tomorrow.

Sadly for them it's not in their own hands as a win in Armagh may not be enough. If Clare beat Tipperary then it doesn't matter what happens at the Athletic Grounds.

Ronan McCarthy has handed key forward Sean Powter his first start of the season after cameos off the bench against Meath, Tipperary and Donegal while goalkeeper Mark White and Tomas Clancy are also drafted in.

Armagh may not have a dog in the fight but they could yet play a part in the final day drama by losing here. Cork are the side that will have the motivation and that may be good enough for the win. Whether it's enough is another story.

Armagh: TBA

Cork: M White; K Flahive, Thomas Clancy, C Dennehy; K Crowley, Tomas Clancy, M Taylor; I Maguire, K O'Hanlon; E McSweeney, S Powter, R Deane; M Hurley, M Collins, P Kerrigan

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