Goalkeeper Paddy Morrison returns to Armagh squad as Fermanagh boss Pete McGrath welcomes back Declan McCusker and Ruairi Corrigan
PADDY Morrison will return to the Armagh squad for Sunday evening’s round one Qualifier with Fermanagh at the Athletic Grounds.
The Irish News understands that goalkeeper Morrison is in contention to start the game after a string of impressive displays for his club Armagh Harps recently. However, he may have to settle for the number 16 jersey if manager Kieran McGeeney keeps faith with Blaine Hughes who has been the Orchard number one since the early stages of Armagh’s Division Three campaign.
Burly Morrison, a capable shot-stopper who is reliable from kick-outs, was seen as first choice alongside Matthew McNeice at the start of the year and he played two games in the Dr McKenna Cup before he was hospitalised with a twisted bowel in January.
McNeice took over for the first two rounds of the League but then left the panel, forcing McGeeney to throw Carrickcruppen clubman Hughes, a former U21 goalkeeper, into senior action.
Morrison’s return to fitness hit another snag when he broke a finger and, despite recovering from that injury, he was left out of the squad that lost to Down in the June 4 Ulster Championship quarter-final at Pairc Esler.
Ethan Rafferty was named as a surprise substitute goalkeeper for that game but wasn’t called upon. Despite the defeat in Newry, Hughes kept a clean sheet and saved well from a Connaire Harrison shot in the first half.
However, he was caught in possession in the second half and Morrison may be seen as a better option to counteract the physical threat of Fermanagh full-forward Sean Quigley.
Manager McGeeney has been forced to tinker with the position since he took over as Armagh manager for the 2015 season.
After two decades dominated by Benny Tierney and then Crossmaglen’s Paul Hearty, McGeeney has used eight goalkeepers in the last three seasons.
Philip McEvoy, Tim Harney and Niall Geoghegan all featured in his first season. Last year, McNeice and Morrison competed for the position throughout the League, but McGeeney opted to use converted midfielder Paul Courtney as a wildcard pick in the Championship against Cavan.
This year Hughes has emerged and Morrison’s return to full fitness means that Rafferty is expected to return to a more familiar outfield role against Pete McGrath’s Ernemen on Sunday evening.
The Grange clubman could slot in beside Stephen Sheridan in midfield where Stephen Harold and Aaron Findon are also options. Maghery’s Ben Crealey won’t feature due to injury.
Meanwhile, Fermanagh will have Ruairi Corrigan and Declan McCusker fit for the trip to the Athletic Grounds. Manager Pete McGrath confirmed that wing-back McCusker is available to start the game while Corrigan will certainly see some game-time against the Orchardmen.
Both sat out the Ernemen’s quarter-final loss against Monaghan at Clones but will return for Sunday’s last-chance-saloon showdown.
“Ruairi hasn’t played for us all year,” said McGrath.
“He got a bad shoulder injury in a club final way back in September but he is back training and he is playing some club football.
“He will see some game-time on Sunday, it’s a question of how we decide to deploy him whether it’s starting or coming on, he wouldn’t be able to do 70 minutes.
“Declan had surgery on his hand and missed the Monaghan game but he’s back doing full training and has played a number of club matches. He is a strong possibility, he’s certainly there for selection on Sunday.”
However, Ryan Jones has missed several training sessions since featuring as a late substitute against Monaghan. The Derrygonnelly clubman is struggling with a back injury and McGrath describes him as a “remote possibility” for Sunday’s game.