Sports

Mission possible for Orchard

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

ARMAGH head to Navan this Saturday evening (March 1) for a floodlit fixture with Meath in Division Two of the Allianz National League, writes John Morrison.
For many, both inside and outside the county, it's a lost cause but, for me, it's more a mission possible than a mission impossible.
Meath had the better season last year and for the start of this year in gaining promotion from Division Two, reaching the 2013 Leinster final and also the O'Byrne Cup final at the start of this year while Armagh have had a poor last season and McKenna Cup this season.
But for both teams, last season and early this season, like the past, have gone and should be let go of because they can't be changed.
In Armagh's two games, they fought back well to earn a draw and almost steal a win over Louth and then were cruelly beaten in injury-time by Down, under horrendous weather conditions, when their performance was worthy of at least a draw.
Meath, for their part, beat a very understrength and still pointless Galway 3-18 to 4-11, before complacency may have affected the Royals in their second game chastening defeat away to Monaghan (20-8).
Thus given the two teams recent record, there is pressure on both to deliver but with home advantage and the contrast in their opening games performances the greater pressure is on Meath to produce a result on Saturday.
Thus with past efforts gone, little difference in league position and a greater pressure to deliver on Meath, it definitely is a case of mission possible for Armagh in Navan.
In the Monaghan/Meath game, both teams used a sweeper - Padraic Keenan (for Monaghan) and Padraic Harnan (for Meath).
Keenan and his fellow defenders were excellent, winning the ball bravely or winning breaking ball to use it effectively.
Armagh's defence can and have in the past played as well and marshalled their defence as Monaghan did.
For Meath Harnan was over-run as Monaghan attacked in waves. Armagh can also do this if they either run at high intensity through the middle of Meath's defence using a repeated straight run followed by diagonal run system of passing or by using a 'spine' formation of the front three to create effective scoring space and both these tactical systems, Armagh have used to great effect.
Avoid the aimless long ball forward on this occasion and use the strengths of the current players to broker a win.
Armagh's team selection is something akin to a lottery at the moment given their injury tally with only Caolan Rafferty certain to be back from the list of 20 declared doubtful in the past few weeks.
Meath's manager Mick O'Dowd has selection problems also, having used the full six substitutions in the Monaghan game.
Their imposing and intimidating presence that is goalkeeper, Paddy O'Rourke will start. Meath's defensive six of Keoghan, Reilly, Burke, Harnan, Menton and Dalton are likely to be retained as are midfielders Aidan Torney and Shane O'Rourke (their best player last day).
Any significant changes will be made in Meath's forwards lines as five out of six starting were substituted against Monaghan.
Michael Newman, Stephen Bray and former minor star, Killian O'Sullivan, who each scored, are the most likely to retain their place with Eoghan Harrington, David Bray and David Larkin, subs who came and scored, may be given a place instead of Wallace, Caroll and Reilly who had started against the Farneymen.
Home advantage and a former reputation will install Meath as favourites but, for me, Armagh can still come away with a mission possible winning result.

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