Who did it? Who’s Next?

July 28, 2009

One would think from the heading that it was a game of Cluedo or some other board game that was being talked about, not so, it is the Armagh Senior football team that the questions are being asked about in the wake of the resignation of team manager Peter McDonnell.

In his second year in charge and with an Ulster title under his belt, the Mullaghbawn school principal has called it a day citing the leaking of the team and tactics prior to the Monaghan game the main reason for his departure.  McDonnell released a statement on behalf of his management team, in which he blamed “fabricated stories” and a “breach of confidentiality” for their departure.

But it is his references to outside influences putting pressure on the County Board and withdrawing their support, along with who caused the leaks, that has led to so much talk and speculation as to who is responsible.  The statement continued, “Yet, in only achieving Ulster successes, we have failed to satisfy the desire for instant success and have armed influential individuals with all they needed to withdraw support.

“We acknowledge the tremendous work that the County Board does and the strong support given to us by the same but particularly for the management and support group, who have worked closely with us over these past two years, we realise pressures have been brought to bear on them also.”

The statement concluded, “However, we have concluded that to remain with Armagh after a breach of confidentiality occurred, which resulted in the actual team and tactics being openly discussed in public prior to the Monaghan game, that it was pointless to continue and feel that we have been forced into an untenable position with no other option but to resign.”

The media and paper columnists also came in for criticism from the Armagh management, with talks of accountability, fabricated stories which were all part of a concerted campaign to undermine the group. Football managers, football teams, players and all involved in the game should realise that they are public property even though they play an amateur sport. News sells newspapers and the clamour that Peter McDonnell would have caused in the media circus when he announced that he was going to make a statement was manna from heaven to hundreds of scribes.

Yet all the statement contained was more of the same innuendos, speculation with no hard evidence delivered which has sparked a media witch hunt to try and unearth the mole in exactly the same manner in which articles about the Armagh team were construed by management as fabricated stories. Any one of the 30 squad members comes under the spotlight as the “mole”

There is not a dressing room in the country where the walls have no ears but it is how the people inside those dressing rooms adapt to these situations is what counts. The most successful teams have their problems with rumours and attempts to undermine but they get on with it. Less than 12 months ago they were looking for the head of Mickey Harte after defeat to Down, he got on with it and won the All-Ireland.

It is a pity that in a week where squad discipline in several counties has reared its head that Armagh are also caught up in the media glare. Peter McDonnell has an excellent pedigree as a manager and his efforts with an Armagh side in transition were very commendable. But in the era that we are in only one thing counts “Sam”. Coming in as a successor to Joe Kernan, who also came in for plenty of criticism ,despite his success, was always going to be a very hard act to follow. An Ulster title in his first year was something for Peter to build on but it did not work out. Very few generals blame the troops when you lose the battle.

The manner of the manager’s departure has not stopped speculation as to who will be his successor. In light of his revelations a few who had notions on the job may think again about taking over. The last appointment process was a farcical affair.  Let’s hope this one is conducted better and every avenue is explored to bring the right candidate to the helm to unite what is still a very talented squad of players.