McDonnell commits to cause
STEVEN McDonnell will look back with mixed feelings on a decade that occupied the prime of his football career.
The 30-year-old former All Star forward made his debut for Armagh in 1999, little knowing that six Ulster winners' medals and an All-Ireland title in 2002 lay ahead of him during the last decade.
Today, it's different. Older, wiser, well seasoned in the ways of football and the ease with which success turns to failure, McDonnell knows for sure that his days as a top senior player are decreasing.
What he does possess, though, is a renewed appetite for the game and a willingness to re-commit to the cause of Armagh football.
Early fruits of that commitment were evident in McDonnell's performances in the opening two NFL Division 2 games.
Against Meath last Saturday week he scored six of Armagh's total of 13 points, three of them from frees.
And Westmeath won't forget Stevie Wonder in a hurry as he notched 1-9, all from play, on Sunday in Crossmaglen as Armagh won by 2-19 to 0-8. However, McDonnell (pictured below) is not looking too far ahead.
He has rowed in with the new management team headed by Paddy O'Rourke and particularly the training regime overseen by Mike McGurn.
"I've been playing with Armagh since 1999 and for the last number of years I wasn't putting the right commitment into it.
"I was just probably happy to be there more than anything, but I've realised that time is running out for me as an inter-county footballer, so I'd better give it everything I have while I have this jersey on my back.
"I'm quite happy at the minute with the way I'm performing and I'm happy with my fitness as well.
"It's still quite a young side. We are a team building for the future and if we can keep getting the right results, we're going in the right direction."
He is also keen to point out that the Armagh attacking threat is not a one-man band.
"Obviously Ronan (Clarke) is going to be a big loss in any match.
"With some of the high balls coming in against Westmeath, it would have been helpful to have Ronan in there beside us, but we feel we have a good panel of players together at the minute.
"A lot of people think that when it comes to Armagh scoring, it's about myself and Clarkey. But, at the end of the day, we had nine lads on the score sheet (against Westmeath), which we also did last week.
"It's about the other forwards in the team believing in themselves as well and we certainly have potential for other players to pop up and contribute scores.
"As a team we just have to keep going out and performing, and getting the points on the board.
"Armagh, over the last couple of years, have been disappointing, so we need to build up our reputation again before we do anything else," he said.