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Back in the Blame Game

September 18, 2012

On a very short list for the Louth job, a candidate for the Monaghan job, it came as a bolt out of the blue to nearly all GAA followers when Mullaghbawn native and former Armagh manager Peter McDonnell along with Martin McQuillan, St Patrick’s, Cullyhanna were added to newly appointed Armagh manager Paul Grimley’s backroom team for the coming year.

Peter and Martin join forces with Brendan Hughes and Malachy McCausland as the quartet combine to help manager Grimley get Armagh back to recent former glories. Indeed it was under the stewardship of McDonnell in 2008 that Armagh last basked in championship glory by winning their last Ulster title but 12 months or so later there was an acrimonious end to his Armagh managerial reign. Outlining in a recent interview Peter made it quite clear that he had some unfinished business with regards to his native county mainly due to the fact that he believed during his time as manager that” everything you do is for the good of the county and should not be used as a vehicle for self-promotion in other areas of life.”

Personal friendship with new manager Paul Grimley and changes to the County Board top table as his reasons for taking up a selector’s role.

Clearly unhappy at the time of his resignation as manager about issues he would not elaborate on, it is a measure of the man and his sole intent for success for Armagh, that he is once more putting himself in the firing line by getting” back in the blame game” with his native county.

The fact that Armagh did not perform to anywhere near their capabilities in Croke Park against Wexford following their Ulster success, and the following year against Derry and Monaghan cannot be solely down to the manager as an awful lot of key players did not step up to the mark during the course of those games.

One has to remember that when an awful lot were shying away from being a successor to Joe Kernan it was McDonnell who put his head on the chopping block (as follow up success was always going to be a tall order) and eventually fell on his sword clearly from his own viewpoint with help from supposed friends, not foes.

Ulster titles with club and county, and a fair degree of success wherever he has gone, Peter McDonnell, for me, clearly brings something to the table with regards to team management. While I would question his sideline ability during game time, he cannot be so highly regarded by players within the game, without being made of the right stuff. The timing of his last instalment with Armagh was not right, in that “only a second All-Ireland victory” from whoever was manager would have satisfied Armagh supporters following the dizzy heights achieved by the previous manager. Times have changed dramatically, financially, for management teams in the last 5 years or more making their tasks even all the more difficult.

Supporters are a very fickle breed, quick to praise and equally as quick to condemn. Paul Grimley has been wanted as manager for a long time. Now he has got the job, those said same people do not trust him to put together a backroom team. McCausland is a professional coach with Hughes, McDonnell, and McQuillan Armagh to the back bone. If Martin can get the squad to give as much as he did on the field he will have done a hell of a job.

How many people fancied Jimmy McGuinness or James Horan or their backroom teams when they were appointed but look where they are today? Let’s just sit back and give the new Armagh set up a proper chance, be critical if warranted in time, but not before they are given time to get results which all teams are judged on. It is not that long ago that winning an Ulster title was a big deal for Armagh, not so any more as the taste of “the big prize” has left it as the only avenue of success open to Armagh management teams.

There is no doubt that the same ambitions harboured by supporters is deeply engrained in the management team, otherwise why should they all become leading contenders in what has become “the blame game” as opposed to the enjoyment of football as an amateur sport?

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