KARL McKeegan will be keen to spot some fresh talent that can add to his Armagh side for the upcoming season when they take on Derry in the opening round of the McGurk Cup.
McKeegan, now in his second season in charge of the Orchard County, will try out the new faces that have been added to his panel and give them ever opportunity to impress.
“We’ll definitely be using it to get seeing a few of these players,” said the Antrim native. “We’ll not be at full strength and these boys are all pushing for places so we should be in good enough shape.
“We’ve got a few good week’s training under the belt so we’re looking forward to getting started. We have a few fellas in from Cuchulainns, there’s David Ryan, Caolan McReynolds and then a young guy John Donnelly.
“We have young Joe O’Connor (Killeavy) back in, I think he was in before. We had a challenge game against Tyrone there and I got to see a wee bit of them but obviously I’m looking to see a wee bit more.
“We’re looking forward to the game and to the games starting. You can train as much as you want, and you can see boys but it’s once we get into the thick of it that you know who’s going to stand up for you.”
There are a few gaps in the squad that are up for grabs at the minute. Veterans Nathan Curry and Eoin McGuinness have both retired from inter-county hurling while Cormac Jennings has also stepped away.
“Losing boys like that, you don’t want to, but we have most of the rest of the boys back in. We had a year with them last year trying to implement our ideas and that so hopefully now we can drive it on, and the boys buy into it.”
McKeegan isn’t quite sure if he’ll be able to call upon Keady youngster Tomas Galvin either. The 19-year-old scored twice recently for Dungannon Swifts as they overcame Newry City 4-2 in the Bet McLean Cup and that’s where his focus is at the minute.
“Tomas is a really, really talented kid,” added McKeegan. “I’ve told him to stay away from us until after Christmas and then we’ll see where he’s at.
“We don’t know exactly at the minute where he’s at, he probably doesn’t know himself because I know he was involved with the footballers there a wee bit as well and then obviously he’s playing soccer.
“I would love to have him in our squad, but I’ll get talking to him again after Christmas. It’s not as if you have to worry about him doing preseason work because obviously, he’s doing all that.”
Armagh kick off their 2024 campaign with a trip to Owenbeg and McKeegan knows his side are in for a tough test against Johnny McGarvey’s Derry.
“I know the management well and I know how good they are. They’ll have their boys well ready and we’re under no illusions, it’ll be a tough game.
“It’s early in the season so it’ll probably just be about whoever settles more and how well you play on the day; it can go anyway this time of year.
“Boys are trying to show that they are trying to get on this squad and these games, this is where they really can show it so there’s no point in holding back to the start of the league.”
McGurk Cup first round fixtures:
Monaghan v Louth
Cavan v Louth
Tyrone v Antrim
Derry v Armagh