By Shaun Casey
ARMAGH’S momentum and defensive match-ups will see the Orchard County through to the last four says former player Billy Joe Padden.
Significant victories over Tyrone and Donegal allow Armagh to head into the game with huge momentum, while Galway haven’t featured since their Connacht final victory over Roscommon four weeks ago.
“I definitely see advantage Armagh in that situation. I think it’s a positive that they’re battle-hardened and have the week’s rest whereas a four-week break is probably too long coming into games, particularly when you haven’t already been tested that much.
“I think there will be some apprehension from Galway on it. Galway will recognise Armagh are in a really good place at the minute, they’re very physical and they are going to Croke Park, where Armagh have shown they can put periods of really good play together.
“Galway played with two sweepers and lots of bodies back against Mayo and Mayo struggled with that. Armagh are used to playing against that all the time because that’s very much what Donegal did the last day, that’s what Tyrone can do. That won’t necessarily be a surprise to Armagh and Galway know that.”
Rian O’Neill was man of the match in Armagh’s ten-point win over Donegal and many feel his best position is on the edge of the square but Padden, who’s no stranger to battles with Galway from his Mayo playing days, disagrees.
“I don’t think he’s a natural full-forward. I don’t think he feels comfortable in there, I don’t think he works well in terms of the lateral movement from left to right that you have to have. He looked so much more comfortable out involved in the play in that game against Donegal and I think that’s been a huge boost for Armagh as well.
“This Galway team, you’d never worry about them so much out the field in terms of their footballing ability or their ability to get forward and get involved in attacks, they’re all pretty good footballers.
“I don’t see Rian O’Neill hurting them in the way other teams have hurt them in that, where they’re weakest is if they find themselves in one-on-one situations in open space, they’re not the greatest one-on-one defenders.
“That’s why they feel they have to drop bodies back in and why they played with double sweepers against Mayo, and I’d imagine they’ll try to do something similar in Croke Park because they’ll not want to be exposed.
“Rian O’Neill is not going to be operating in those situations where there’ll be a lot of one-on-one stuff because I don’t expect him to play in the full-forward line too long. He’ll be out around, looking for outside shots, trying to get involved and trying to get his hands on the ball because I think he’s much more comfortable doing that.
“We know how good a kicker Rian O’Neill is, all he really needs is a yard of space inside the 45 and he does damage, so I think they’ll be the sort of opportunities that he’ll be looking for.”
If Kieran McGeeney’s men can stifle Paul Conroy, Damien Comer and Shane Walsh, Padden feels they should come out on top in Croke Park.
“There is a template to beat Galway and it’s whether Armagh can put it into place, and I think they can. I think Armagh have had the more difficult build up, I think they’ve played the better football so far, so I expect Armagh to win.
“The template for beating Galway is, have you got somebody to mark Paul Conroy, have you got somebody to mark Damien Comer, and have you got somebody to mark Shane Walsh, those are the key match-ups.
“Somebody like Stephen Sheridan would have no problem sacrificing his game to man-mark Paul Conroy, he has that sort of discipline. Now whether he’s good enough is a different thing but he definitely has the discipline and the desire to do that.
“Aidan Forker on Comer, Aidan Forker’s not going to be bullied by anyone physically, he has the physical strength to match up to him. I suppose the big question is, who is good enough to go and take Shane Walsh?
“At that if you win two out of three of those battles you beat Galway. I think Armagh will be able to win enough of those key battles to win the game outright.”