Armagh aiming to put one foot in top tier

National Football League Division Two

Armagh v Roscommon

Saturday, Athletic Grounds, 6.30pm

WHILE it’s hard to tell exactly where Armagh stand in the grander scheme of things, there is a growing body of evidence supporting the fact that the Orchard county are moving in the right direction anyway.

A win over an in-form Roscommon on Saturday would not guarantee promotion to Division One but it would certainly be one giant step towards it.

Given that they were a Division Three team when Kieran McGeeney was appointed manager in 2015, surely even the harshest begrudgers would have to give ‘Geezer’ credit if they make the jump up.

Some issues still remain, and they surround that word ‘consistency’, but the league has produced a lot to get excited about.

Seven points from a possible 10 is not to be sniffed at in an ultra competitive division, but drill even deeper and you will see attacking master-classes in the wins over Cavan and Fermanagh while the first-half football against Westmeath was scintillating (less said about the second half the better).

Then there was the grit of the second-half showing into gale-force winds against Kildare when Armagh produced arguably their best 35 minutes of the season despite being down to 14 for the majority of it following Jamie Clarke’s dismissal.

Last Saturday in Brewster Park was another example than when this team is good, they are really good.

Yes, a lot of chances were missed and there was an almost comical feel to the fact that they butchered so many goal chances late on – although coach Paddy McKeever certainly wasn’t laughing in the media box.

His temper rose a little with each bit of selfish play or inaccuracy but when all was said and done the Orchard county had eased to a 3-14 to 0-10 win.

Teams don’t do that in the league in Ennsikillen. Cavan had won there the game previous but their accuracy rate was 76 percent compared to Fermanagh’s 43 percent.

Given that Cavan’s two goals came from goalkeeping errors there was certainly a sense of one that got away in what had been Fermanagh’s first home league loss in nearly two years.

That was not the case last weekend and when Clarke scored his 21st Armagh goal early on (whilst wearing no. 21) it was a sign of things to come.

Forkhill duo Stephen Sheridan and Paddy Burns, not without their detractors, put in top shifts. Jarly og Burns, who looked a tad cumbersome in the draw with Westmeath, was excellent throughout.

Then there was Rory Grugan, who delivered one of those all-round performances that makes you appreciate just how good he is.

Scoring is one thing, but last year’s captain forced a number of turn-overs and put the Erne county on the back foot.

Fermanagh bad or Armagh good? A bit of both, for sure, but let’s not deny McGeeney’s men the credit.

What we do know is that Roscommon will provide a much, much tougher test this weekend. They too know that a win will almost certainly guarantee promotion.

The Rossies are aiming for a fourth win on the trot and the good news doesn’t stop there as Conor Cox made his first competitive start of the season in the 1-16 to 0-12 win over Westmeath in their last game. They are a fine team with similar ambitions to the hosts.

As always, Armagh’s chances will probably come down to their attack. Jemar Hall, Conor Turbitt and possibly even Andy Murnin could return to the squad from injury.

It would be a surprise if they didn’t post a big tally. It would also be a surprise if they didn’t concede a big tally. The TV cameras are coming for entertainment, and they should get it.

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