Sunday 25 February 2018

Spirit of Cross' can lift Armagh -- McDonnell

Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

HE HAS never been one for grandstanding so when Stevie McDonnell points to the multitude of factors that contributed to Armagh's shock exit from the championship last weekend, it's time to take note.

The Killeavy man insists application rather than talent lies at the core of the county's problems.

"The current group of players in Armagh certainly have a lot of ability -- there's no doubt about that -- and there are some fantastic players coming through. But maybe it's their attitude and application, as much as anything, that isn't getting them across the line," said McDonnell who, along with Donal Og Cusack, will feature as analysts and columnists on 'Round the Square' on www.gaa.ie.

McDonnell believes that either Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney or Crossmaglen's Tony McEntee should replace Paddy O'Rourke, who stepped down in the wake of the Orchard County's defeat to Roscommon.

"There are two candidates that stand out. Tony McEntee is the obvious one. I know he has come out and ruled himself out -- and he's ruled himself out for good reason -- he wants to be part of a Crossmaglen team that wins a three-in-a-row, and that's a perfectly good reason.

"The other outstanding candidate, of course, is Kieran McGeeney. We all know what he was like as a player and a leader, and he's done a fantastic job with Kildare as well.

"They are the two people I would like to see being given an opportunity, but I think it's unfair to even talk about Kieran McGeeney at the minute when he's involved with Kildare."

Crossmaglen's success is an issue within the county and many were shocked to see just one starter -- Jamie Clarke -- from the All-Ireland club champions, after Aaron Kernan was ruled out through injury.

And McDonnell believes Armagh can use Cross' success as a template.

"It should be an advantage to Armagh football that Crossmaglen are doing so well," he said.

"Everybody in the country is in awe of Crossmaglen, so why are they not in awe of Armagh football? And that's the reality. We should be taking those players in and putting arms around them, and trying to play to the system that they play and that works for them.

Capable

"I don't believe that it was the best Armagh team on the pitch (against Roscommon). I do believe there are capable Armagh players that are not even in the squad. Sometimes it's hard to call when you're watching from the outside and it's very easy for us to say the best Armagh players weren't on the pitch.

"But you have to look at Crossmaglen's record over the last two years. They've been very successful, they've won two All-Irelands in a row and you don't win two All-Irelands in a row having bad players in your set-up.

"I would like to have seen a few more Crossmaglen players starting, more so because they have a winning mentality.

"I'm not saying that they are better players than the players who started for Armagh last week, but they have a mentality -- they believe in themselves and (believe) that they're going to win every match they play in.

"Armagh certainly has a lot of talent and can they go and win an All-Ireland in the next few years? I believe so, without a doubt, but you know it's the mentality of the players at the minute.

"I just don't think they're of the same mentality as what went before them in the previous 10-15 years.

"I do think that the full set-up needs a good 'red-out' (clear out) -- how are they going to go about doing that is their own decision, but certainly there are hard calls that must be made."

Irish Independent

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