The draw for the All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals threw up some intriguing contests, but the toughest one to call is, arguably, Armagh and Galway.
The bookies are also struggling to separate the sides and most firms initially went even money the pair before nudging Armagh into favouritism.
The most fascinating “key battle” could be along the sideline on Sunday as Kieran McGeeney and Pádraic Joyce try to get one over on each other.
Both men are legends within their own counties, and rightly so, for their exploits on the pitch and they’re also former Ireland International Rules teammates.
Undoubtedly, ‘Geezer’ has the bigger calls to make ahead of Sunday’s game with an ever growing injury list.
Connaire Mackin was set to be included against Donegal, but was withdrawn at the last minute after feeling unwell during the throw-in.
The Shane O’Neill’s ace, who can play in the defence or at midfield, is expected to be fit to play, but brother Ciaran remains sidelined after suffering a broken eye socket earlier in the season.
Forkhill defender Paddy Burns is also set to miss out with a hamstring injury while Niall Grimley and Tiernan Kelly will miss the remainder of the campaign.
Andrew Murnin certainly didn’t look out of place in Armagh’s attack against Donegal and is likely to hold on to a starting berth.
For Galway, aside from defender Seán Mulkerrin, who picked up a serious knee injury while playing for NUIG in the Sigerson Cup, they’ve a relatively clean bill of health and probably won’t make too many changes from the side that defeated Roscommon by three points in last month’s Connacht final.
These key battles could swing the outcome in Armagh or Galway’s favour on Sunday. . .
1. Ethan Rafferty
2. James Morgan 3. Aidan Forker 4. Aaron McKay
5. Connaire Mackin 6. Greg McCabe 7. Jarly Óg Burns
8. Stephen Sheridan 9 Ben Crealey
10. Rory Grugan 11. Stefan Campbell 12. Andrew Murnin
13. Aidan Nugent 14. Rian O’Neill 15. Jason Duffy
1. Connor Gleeson
2. Liam Silke 3. Seán Kelly 4. Jack Glynn
5. Dylan McHugh 6. John Daly 7. Kieran Molloy
8. Paul Conroy 9. Cillian McDaid
10. Patrick Kelly 11. Matthew Tierney 12. Johnny Heaney
13. Robert Finnerty 14. Damien Comer 15. Shane Walsh
Seán Kelly (Galway) v Rian O’Neill (Armagh)
Against Donegal, Rian O’Neill returned to his devastating best form as he posted 1-7 in a Man-of-the-Match display.
In the previous Championship meeting between the counties in Ballybofey, O’Neill was held scoreless by Brendan McCole.
Yet, against Tyrone and in the rematch with Donegal, he played much deeper and was able to link up with other players and he helped set up Armagh’s other two goals in Clones.
Galway will probably look to their skipper Seán Kelly to pick up O’Neill. The Moycullen clubman played a key role for NUIG earlier this year as they won the Sigerson Cup and is regarded as one of Galway’s tightest markers.
Ben Crealey (Armagh) v Paul Conroy (Galway)
With Damien Comer back to full fitness, Galway have been able to restore Paul Conroy to midfield and they look a much better side of late.
Conroy, who has battled back from a double leg break, will know that Galway won’t get many better chances to reach an All-Ireland final.
Joyce’s men will need to get on top of a new-look Armagh midfield from early on, but Ben Crealey has been one of their best players in recent games.
The Maghery ace was outstanding against Tyrone and it was his double challenge on Michael Murphy and Jason McGee that was instrumental in Armagh winning the throw-in, which led to Rory Grugan’s goal after 10 seconds.
Aidan Forker (Armagh) v Shane Walsh (Galway)
He has found himself picking up Donegal’s Michael Murphy twice and Tyrone’s Darren McCurry in the Championship campaign so far. It would be a massive surprise on Sunday if Aidan Forker isn’t detailed to track Galway’s Shane Walsh in Croke Park.
Walsh hit 1-6 in the Connacht SFC final win over Roscommon, with 1-3 coming from play. Against Mayo, he landed 0-5 including a few crucial frees and Forker will need to be incredibly disciplined on Sunday as the former Galway skipper is usually very accurate from free-kicks.
With Forker picking up Walsh, it will be left to James Morgan and Aaron McKay to mark Robert Finnerty and Damien Comer respectively.
Kieran Molloy (Galway) v Rory Grugan (Armagh)
As Armagh’s Ulster Championship challenge petered out in Ballybofey, Rory Grugan was one of the few Orchard players who delivered a decent display against Donegal, scoring 0-5 of his side’s tally of 0-12.
In the Clones rematch, he found the back of Shaun Patton’s net after just 10 seconds and finished with 1-3.
With all the talk of Rian O’Neill, Aidan Nugent and Stefan ‘Soupy’ Campbell, Grugan’s sublime finishing sometimes goes under the radar.
There’s little chance of Pádraic Joyce leaving anything to chance on Sunday and he could find himself being picked up by Kieran Molloy.
Galway’s wing-back has popped up with a point from play against both Mayo and Roscommon and Joyce might find that it is better to have Grugan tracking his runs than the other way around.
Ethan Rafferty (Armagh) v Conor Gleeson (Galway)
Ethan Rafferty’s two points from play against Tyrone helped him earn the GAA’s Player of the Week award.
Against Donegal, the Grange clubman proved it wasn’t a one-off performance as he again roamed freely up the pitch and linked up well with his colleagues and was a safe pair of hands under the high ball when Donegal went direct late on.
Rafferty’s kick-outs will come under even more scrutiny in Croke Park as Blaine Hughes was Armagh’s goalkeeper when they beat Dublin in the League back in January.
Connor Gleeson’s kick-outs were excellent against Roscommon in the Connacht final and he had a hand in Shane Walsh’s first goal in Pearse Stadium as his restart found Paul Conroy, who long went into Walsh after 18 minutes.
Both goalkeepers can vary their kick-outs well, but both have contrasting styles and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top on Sunday.