Celtic Park Yardstick
May 4, 2010
Armagh may have made it back to Division One of the Allianz National Football league as Division Two champions but the management team know full well that it is the May 16, Celtic Park clash with Derry which will be used as the yardstick to measure the progress the team has made.
The Armagh supporters basking in the delight of a League Final win over rivals Down have raised the bar for their managers to one prize “The Return of Sam” and nothing else will satisfy them. Senior leagues and Ulster titles, U21 and Minor All-Ireland’s have only inflamed the burning desire for a second All-Ireland senior title.
Armagh manager Paddy O Rourke fully understands the situation. Despite proving his appointment a success, only some four months into competetive action, Down native Paddy was making championship plans even with league promotion already secured. In the lead up to the League Final Paddy, Donal and Justin added 5 players to their championship panel.
Three players from the under 21 squad , Crossmaglen trio , Jamie Clarke, Francis Hanratty and Paul McKeown were drafted in along with the vastly experienced duo of Enda McNulty (Mullaghbawn ) and Martin O’Rourke (Dromintee).
With over 30 players used during a very successful league campaign by the Armagh management every avenue has been explored to assemble the best championship panel for 2010. The Croke Park league win over Down was ideal preparation for Celtic Park in terms of moral and competitiveness. Down asked a lot of questions of Armagh none least as to how they would respond to that Pairc Escler defeat, the first Down win over Armagh for 15 years. Armagh provided the answers both on and off the field. The players displayed great character in coming back in the last quarter after Down had taken the lead for the first time. Management got their tactics spot on showing that they had learned from the Down defeat. While Down manager James McCartan made substitutions who did not make that big an impact on the game, opposite number Paddy showed no hesitation in springing new recruit Jamie Clarke from the bench along with Malachy Mackin and Stefan Forker all three to telling effect which swayed the final in favour of the Orchard County.
If one suggested at the beginning of the league campaign that it would have turned out the way it did, especially with one of the main talismen Ronan Clarke playing a cameo role, your opinino would have been met with some ridicule. The refreshing brand of attacking football brought it’s league rewards, championship fare will be a different kettle of fish as well we know.