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Grange boss highlights issue damaging club’s progress

GRANGE coach Peter Nugent has said that the team still has plenty of “maturing” to do after inconsistency once again railroaded another league campaign.

Last week’s loss to An Port Mor all but rules out a top two finish in the Intermediate B league, and it means that it’s now four seasons since they have managed to win three league games in succession.

Nugent, who works closely with manager John McArdle and assistant Anthony McArdle, has said that talent is not an issue but a lack of experience is preventing them from taking the next step.

“Game management has been far from good,” said Nugent. “That maybe comes from experience deficits in parts of the team.

“We have a lot of younger lads in their first, second, third year of senior football and it’s fair comment to say that they are learning on the job.

“Lots of teams at this level have been together as a group for much longer. Look at Ballyhegan and even An Port Mor the other night, they are riddled with players in their late 20s and early 30s.

“Game management and experience is evident in those sides but we have been struggling with it.

“To go up you need to be able to string five or six wins together but we haven’t shown any form to suggest that we are capable of doing that.

“There are inconsistencies within the group and that comes down to the level of maturity.”

The 3-14 to 2-13 defeat to the Blackwatertown men perhaps sums up Grange’s season perfectly. It brought their scoring average to over 21 points over 11 games but they are also conceding over 18 points per game.

It was another tight game lost, following in the footsteps of narrow defeats to Ballyhegan and Keady with the defence conceding key scores at key times.

Nugent, however, has said that they will not be moving away from their current attacking approach.

“When we move the ball well we have a very dangerous forward line but as a result we sometimes leave the back door open,” he said.

“We are one of the top scoring teams in Armagh and that’s testament to their talents.

“There are question marks over in-game concentration levels though and that has led to some sucker-punches.

“We talk about it and address it every Tuesday nearly, we look at the video analysis.

“At the same time, the only way to get over it is to be exposed to it continually and playing week-on-week.”

The club has been on an upward curve since their Junior Championship win back in 2010 with a new generation of stars allowing them to taste senior football again in recent years.

That has brought with it issues too given how small their pick is. Ethan Rafferty is currently an Armagh player while brothers Miceal and Cathal McKenna have also spent time in county colours.

Other players have represented Armagh at underage level and with a few players in Peter McDonnell’s u-20 squad, training numbers have been sparse at times.

“I managed in Lurgan and you look at their teams now and they have 35, 36 players there,” Nugent continued.

“Grange is a rural club with a limited pick. At it’s maximum, the panel sits at about 26 players.

“We have a good spread of young players with real pedigree behind them and they have to be elsewhere.

“Training can become a challenge when numbers are down, and that’s not anyone’s fault.

“Then you have the injuries and normal things that impact a panel too.

“Take Justin Kieran for example, one of the most exciting talents I’ve seen at this level in a long time.

“We lost him two weeks ago to ankle ligament damage and now he’s in a race against time to be fit for the championship.

“We’ll be hoping to get some more bodies back in the next few weeks though.”

The shift will now focus in the next few weeks starting with Sunday’s trip to Crossmaglen. McArdle’s side will hope to pick up a couple of wins in their last three league games to secure a pot three spot in the Intermediate Championship draw. Then it will be a case of chasing consistency for that summer football and then, who knows?

n.mccoy@gaeliclife.com

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