Down full-back Benny McArdle ruled out of Armagh derby battle
DOWN full-back Benny McArdle will miss the Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final with Armagh in Newry on June 4.
The Irish News understands that the experienced Annaclone defender suffered a broken metatarsal in a club match recently and has been ruled out of the Pairc Esler derby clash.
McArdle was sidelined for almost 12 months after rupturing his Achilles tendon in 2015. He returned to action last year but didn’t start in the first three games of Down’s Division Two campaign this season. However, he returned to the side for the win against Derry, the subsequent losses to Kildare and Galway and the vital final round draw in Cork that kept the Mournemen in the second tier.
In his absence it looks likely that Gerard McGovern will come in at full-back against the Orchardmen in Newry where he will be given a man-marking role on Armagh’s tall, mobile full-forward Stefan Campbell.
Downpatrick midfielder Peter Turley is also reported to be struggling with injury, but he should be fit to face Armagh, and there are question marks over Glen pair Shay Millar and Niall McParland who both sat out their club’s recent Division One game against Downpatrick.
It has also been reported that Donal O’Hare’s bid to return to match fitness has been hampered by an ankle injury he picked up while playing for club Burren in Down’s first division.
There was better news for Down fans after it was confirmed that Rostrevor’s attacking wing-back Caolan Mooney had regained full-fitness. Down manager Eamonn Burns had said that Mooney faced “a race against time” to recover from injury for the Ulster opener. But Mooney was fit enough to start the recent challenge game against Meath.
His last Championship game against Armagh was a remarkable Ulster minor quarter-final at the Athletic Grounds back in 2011. Mooney scored one of Down’s five goals that day, but the Mournemen lost the game 3-11 to 5-4.
Meanwhile, according to reports, Armagh have injury worries of their own at full-back after it emerged that Charlie Vernon and Brendan Donaghy are both struggling to be fit for the trip to Newry.
Vernon suffered an injury in training while Clonmore’s Donaghy is still receiving treatment on the injury he picked up in the Division Three win over Antrim at the Athletic Grounds.
Also on the injured list is evergreen centre half-back-turned-goal-scoring full-forward Ciaran McKeever. The Cullyhanna native found a rich vein of form during Armagh’s League campaign and his experience would be invaluable in the pressure-cooker atmosphere at Pairc Esler.
Down manager Burns remarked recently that the June 4 showdown would be typically “hammer-and-tongs”.
“Everybody knows it’s a local derby and it doesn’t really matter whether you’re in Division Four or Division One. The game is going to be massively competitive,” said double All-Ireland winner Burns.
“There will be a huge crowd at it and I think League status will go out the window. There will be no worrying about what division you’re in for 2018, it’ll be on the day and it’ll be hammer-and-tongs. Kieran McGeeney knows that and I know that.”