Armagh's mental resilience has improved: former Orchard boss Paul Grimley
PAUL Grimley says Armagh’s mental resolve this season has been one of the squad’s most impressive aspects and believes the shortened inter-county season will be a huge benefit to them.
The former Orchard boss, who handed over the managerial reins to Kieran McGeeney at the end of the 2014 season, also feels an Ulster title is well within the county’s grasp.
Armagh have been one of the in-form sides in Division One this season despite suffering a blip against Mayo last time out but they can put themselves back in the League final frame if they manage to inflict a third defeat on Kildare at The Athletic Grounds tomorrow night.
“I like this Armagh team,” said Grimley.
“Their mental strength during games has been really impressive. Whenever mistakes are made or goals go in, they recover from it a lot quicker than they used to.
“If you looked at Dublin or Kerry over the last few years, they just keep their composure, their coolness in key situations.
“There’d be no shouting at one another, no hands being thrown up in the air. They just turn around and go back into their positions because they knew when a mistake was made it was up to them to rectify it. And they usually did.
“They gave the impression to the other team that you just made us angry now. Great players keep their composure.”
During Grimley’s time in charge, Armagh were heavily reliant on attacker Jamie Clarke, but over time the county has unearthed a clutch of brilliant forwards that would compare favourably with any attacking unit among the top flight.
Rian O'Neill, TJ Kelly, Jason Duffy and Conor Turbitt have rejuvenated the Armagh attack over the past 12 months while Rory Grugan and Stefan Campbell provide some much-needed experience in that sector.
“I wouldn’t say the team is exactly flawless," Grimley added, “but they are nearly there and they’ve got a forward line now that a lot of the pundits are rightly raving about.
“Of course, you can be one of the top teams in the country but you need to win things to be talked about.
“I think an Ulster Championship would be a success for this Armagh team. They’ve shown that they are well capable of taking on Division One teams but the Ulster Championship is a mini All-Ireland on its own. It is so hard to win.
“If you get into an All-Ireland quarter-final or semi-final you know you’ve earned your place there.”
Armagh face Donegal in the Ulster Championship on Sunday April 24 in what is arguably the stand-out tie of this season's provincial series. And the fact the inter-county season is much more compact helps teams who have established good early momentum in their NFL campaigns.
“By the time you reach the Championship you’ve probably a dozen games under your belt, including the McKenna Cup. The benefit of the shortened season means that you can maintain your momentum and keep your form together. Whenever you’re playing well you always love the matches coming thick and fast because you don’t want to break that momentum.
“I’ve watched most of Armagh’s games and like everybody else you can’t help but be encouraged by how they’ve performed in Division One.
“Kieran [McGeeney] has turned it into a really professional set-up and he’s brought different people into his backroom team every year. And by all accounts, the players really like Kieran Donaghy and Ciaran McKeever.
“I think Donaghy has given them a shot of confidence, a different element having won All-Irelands with Kerry. So the players probably look upon him as a role model in that regard and, of course, 'Geezer' himself."