Niall Grimley's return a huge boost for Madden ahead of Ballymacnab clash

Armagh ace Niall Grimley is fit again to boost Madden's title hopes
Armagh ace Niall Grimley is fit again to boost Madden's title hopes Armagh ace Niall Grimley is fit again to boost Madden's title hopes

Cormac Leonard Commercials Armagh SFC quarter-final

Madden v Ballymacnab

(tonight, the BOX-IT Athletic Grounds, 7.30pm)

BALLYMACNAB manager Barry Dillon believes that Niall Grimley is a “huge addition” to tonight's Armagh SFC quarter-final opponents Madden.

Grimley made his long-awaited return to the Madden fold in their draw with Armagh Harps in the final group game, a result which was enough to see them top the group progress straight through to the last eight.

It had been almost two years to the day since Grimley pulled on the red and black jersey after an injury plagued two seasons that saw him feature in just one championship game for Armagh over that period.

A neck injury sustained in training last year saw the midfielder miss out on Armagh’s run to the last eight of the All-Ireland Championship, while this year, having returned to play in the National League, a knee injury ruled him out once again.

But he looks set to make his first start for Madden in two years on Friday night and will be major boost for Mickey Grimley’s side.

“He’s a huge addition for Madden,” said Dillon, now in his second season in charge of Ballymacnab.

“He’s been out for a while but he’s back now and he’s a big presence around the team as well as on the field.

“I saw him with them during the league when he wasn’t even playing, he was very vocal along the sideline so he’s a leader for them back on the pitch now too.

“His physical presence and what he can do on the field, he’s definitely something to think about over the next few days that’s for sure.”

While Grimley is the star attraction, Dillon insists that Madden are far from a one-man team. As well as Grimley, Darragh McMullen, Niall Smith, Joe Sheridan and Conor Grimley were all part of Kieran McGeeney’s Armagh panel this season.

“He’ll be chomping at the bit to get back but he’s not on his own, I think they had five players on the county panel this year. They have that bit of experience too, they won an U19 championship in the past so they’re a team that’s coming.

“They’ve been pushing hard in the league the last few years, so they have shown that consistency and he’s maybe the missing piece for them.”

The round-robin structure of the Armagh championship saw the four group winnners – Clann Eireann, Crossmaglen, Madden and Killeavy – advance straight to the quarter-finals, while Ballymacnab had to take the scenic route and convincingly saw off Sarsfields in a preliminary quarter-final.

“The top four in the league all topped their groups and went straight through to the quarter-finals, maybe that shows the gulf in class,” added the 'Nab boss.

“Madden were sitting at the top end of the league this season while we were battling at the bottom so that’s the gap we have to try and close. That just gives you an idea of the task we have ahead of us.

“We had four tough championship games there in four weeks and that takes its toll. With the age profile of the team, it’s hard to recover from these games. We have a few knocks and obviously Ryan Kennedy didn’t play the last day and hasn’t trained since so that’s something else that we have to factor in.”