GAA Football

Armagh forwards Ethan Rafferty and Rory Grugan expected to be fit for Ulster Championship showdown against Fermanagh

STANDFIRST

Ethan Rafferty is confident he will be fit to face Fermanagh on May 19

ARMAGH forwards Ethan Rafferty and Rory Grugan are expected to be fit for the Orchard county’s Ulster senior Football Championship quarter-final against Fermanagh.

The experienced attacking duo both suffered injuries – Rafferty a hamstring strain, and Grugan a dislocated elbow – while playing for their clubs this month but, barring any further setbacks, they are expected to feature in the Brewster Park showdown.

Rafferty limped off while in action for his club Grange in their Armagh ACL Intermediate A clash with Clan na Gael last Sunday, sparking concerns that he could miss the Anglo-Celt Cup clash on May 19.

But The Irish News has learned that the towering full-forward should have fully recovered in time to lead the Orchard attack against Rory Gallagher’s Ernemen.

Towering full-forward Rafferty was the mainstay of the Orchard county attack during the first four games of their Division Three campaign. He weighed in with match-winning hauls of 1-3 (Sligo), 0-6 (Westmeath), 1-4 (Longford) and 0-4 (Offaly) before a knee injury forced him to miss the closing stages and the games against Fermanagh and Wexford.

He returned for the final as Kieran McGeeney’s men charged to a second Division Three title in four years by beating Fermanagh 1-16 to 0-17 at Croke Park on March 31.

County captain Rory Grugan climbed the Hogan Stand steps to receive the silverware that day but since then he dislocated his elbow while lining out for his club Ballymacnab in their Senior A fixture. Like Rafferty, there were concerns that he faced a length lay-off, but scans revealed that his elbow wasn’t fractured meaning the free-taking playmaker will also be fit to face Fermanagh.

Meanwhile, Stefan Campbell has quashed rumours that he was interested in returning to the Armagh panel. The versatile Clan na nGael clubman opted out of Armagh’s League campaign to play soccer for Lurgan Celtic. He hasn’t ruled out a return to the inter-county game, but it won’t be this season.

Elsewhere, Armagh are one of the counties that look set to find themselves in hot water over their decision to hold a warm-weather training camp in Portugal this weekend.

The Orchard county senior panel arrival in Portugal yesterday for an intensive block of training ahead of their Championship campaign and, by doing so, they broke the GAA rule which prohibits all full-time training camps – in Ireland and abroad – outside of the 10 days before a county’s first Championship game.

The penalty for the breach of the rule is forfeiture of the county’s first home game in next season’s League campaign, meaning that the newly-promoted Orchardmen will face a difficult start to life back in Division Two in 2019. In addition to that, the county board coffers will be lighter because Armagh will miss out on income from the game.

Tyrone are also set to face sanctions. According to reports, the Red Hands intend to travel to Carton House in Kildare for a training weekend on May 5-6. Their Ulster opener against Monaghan is on May 20 meaning that the camp also falls outside the 10-day period. GAA chiefs have promised to enforce “agreed sanctions” on all counties found to be in breach of the rules.

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