Footballers must show resolve and leadership to beat Armagh

Armagh are no world beaters, but they are division three league champions, having also been promoted to division two for next season. They beat Fermanagh in the division three final by 0-16 to 0-11.

And now they are on the back of a tidy 10-point win over Wicklow (2-17 to 2-07 ) in the last round of the qualifiers. Hence, they will not be lacking in self-confidence on Sunday (3pm ) when they host Galway.

However, Galway must believe  they have a real opportunity to get their season back on track. A win at the Athletic Grounds would be a real boost for morale and could set them on the road for a good run in the qualifiers.

For that to happen, Galway will need some key players to  step up their performances and show leadership for the rest of the team to follow.

Armagh are physically strong down the middle - Charlie Vernon at full back, Brendan Donaghy at six, Caolan and Ethan Rafferty at midfield, and full-forward Andrew Murnin, who shot two points against Wicklow, and Ciarán McKeever, if he back from injury. 

Galway manager Kevin Walsh and his management team of Sean Conlon and Brian Silke will expect players such as team captain Paul Conroy, midfielders Fiontán Ó Curraoin and Tom Flynn to really tear into the fray around the middle third. None of those three players could have been even remotely happy with their performances against Mayo and they will want to redeem themselves.

Conroy has been on the Galway squad since 2008, and both Ó Curraoin and Flynn won their first All-Ireland u-21 medal four or five years ago now. The time has come for the three of them, collectively, to become the main men and drive Galway forward. They play in crucial positions and they need to lead.

There has been too much talk and expectation about young Damien Comer who was the u-21 captain this year, and he should be given time to develop as senior inter county level before he is expected to lead the charge in the forward division. That said, both Wicklow's goals the last day came from high balls into the Armagh square that were not dealt with and, if Comer and Peadar Ó Griofa and Danny Cummins are on full alert, there will be opportunities for them to raise a few green flags too.

The bookies, not surprisingly, have Armagh as 8/11 favourites to win, with Galway at 6/4 to advance to the next round.

However, the last time the sides met in championship action was in 2013 in Pearse Stadium and the Armagh lads were hot favourites too. 

Galway turned them over that day by 1-11 to 0-9. A key part of that victory was holding Jamie Clarke scoreless, and he was superbly marshalled by a combination of Donal O'Neill, with Johnny Duane sweeping in front of him.  

Clarke is Kieran McGeeney's real danger man and he notched 2-4 in the win over Wicklow from corner forward. If his influence is nullified and the entire Galway panel approach Sunday in the right frame of mind and really tear into the game, then they are capable of coming home with what would be a massive win.

That will not happen, however, unless the maroon players inside the whitewash take ownership and drive it on. 

I was in Cusack Park last Saturday evening for the Longford and Clare game.

It was a game Clare should have won, but two outstanding displays for Jack Sheedy's side were the difference,  midfielder Michael Quinn who was magnificent all through and full-forward Brian Kavanagh who scored 1-5.

Kevin Walsh needs a few of his payers to come good the way Quinn and Kavanagh did for Longford this weekend, or Galway's season will be over.


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