Andrew Murnin expected to return to Armagh team for Galway clash as Derry sweat on Eoin McEvoy

Armagh forward missed win in Derry but trained this week * McEvoy a doubt for Westmeath showdown

Andrew Murnin is a certain-starter for Armagh when fit (J_Merry)

AFTER missing Armagh’s landslide win against Derry, Andrew Murnin is expected to be fit for the Orchard county’s crucial Group One, round three clash with Galway at Markievicz Park in Sligo on Sunday.

A certain starter when injury-free, St Paul’s clubman Murnin has been in and out of the Orchard line-up this season. The versatile Lurgan native missed the first two games of the Division Two campaign but started the next four as Armagh clinched a return to the top flight with a game to spare.

Murnin missed the trip to Cork but returned for the Division Two final against Donegal at Croke Park and was ever-present throughout Armagh’s march to the Ulster Championship final. He concentrated on a man-marking role at full-back against Down’s Odhran Murdock in the semi-final, he can play in midfield as well but was prominent in attack in the provincial decider, contributing two points as Armagh came within a whisker of capturing the Anglo-Celt Cup.

A point against Westmeath in Armagh’s Group One opener brought Murnin’s tally for the season to 1-12 in nine games but last year’s Armagh Footballer of the Year missed the trip to Celtic Park for the round two clash with Derry.

Ciaran Mackin (ACL) and Conor O’Neill (Achilles) also missed that game but Armagh coped with the absence of three consistent performers with a brilliant display against Mickey Harte’s side. The Orchardmen had 13 scorers on a memorable day and the potential return of Murnin – who scored 0-3 in last year’s win over Galway – is a timely boost for Kieran McGeeney’s outfit.

Conor O'Neill closes in on Derry's Eoin McEvoy during their Ulster final clash at Clones. Picture by Philip Walsh
Derry's Eoin McEvoy is rated "tough and go" for Saturday's clash with Westmeath. Picture by Philip Walsh

However, Killeavy clubman O’Neill will miss the rest of the season after rupturing his Achilles against Westmeath while Ciaran Mackin joined his luckless sister – Armagh LGFA star Aimee – on the sidelines when he suffered a knee injury prior to the round two win.

The winner of the Sligo shootout will top the group and progress automatically to the quarter-finals, the loser and the third-placed team in the group (Derry or Westmeath) will have to win a preliminary quarter-final to join them.

Galway could do without that extra game because they also have injury problems with Damien Comer, Sean Kelly and Rob Finnerty all struggling for fitness. All three missed the round two win against Westmeath.

Meanwhile, full-back Eoin McEvoy is still a doubt for Derry who face Westmeath in a must-win clash at Newry on Saturday (7pm).

McEvoy went through a fitness test before the Armagh game but didn’t tog-out despite being named in the 26-man squad. According to reports, the Magherafelt clubman remains “touch and go” for Pairc Esler.

“He’d done a bit, but we just weren’t entirely happy that he would be fit to play a game,” said Derry manager Harte after McEvoy missed out against Armagh.

“It would probably put him back. So, two weeks’ time… Maybe he will be available.”

Harte was also hopeful that Steelstown forward Cormac Murphy will be fit to play his part in the crucial clash against Dessie Dolan’s Westmeath who were well beaten by Armagh in the group opener but put up fierce resistance against Galway until a Shane Walsh goal put daylight between the sides in Mullingar.

“Cormac Murphy, well, it’s another two weeks,” said Harte.

“It’ll do him a lot of good as well. He probably was risky - if the game had been in the melting pot, you might have given him 10 or 15 minutes but it would have been pointless risking him the way the game was going.”

Gareth McKinless – sent off in Derry’s group opener against Galway in Salthill for a stamp on Comer – will miss out again as he serves the second game of his suspension.