Belfast Telegraph

Dark clouds have rolled over Armagh's sunny outlook

By Declan Bogue

At the start of 2014, the outlook for Armagh was sunny. They had one of their favourite sons on board when Kieran McGeeney was stitched into the fabric of their management team. They got off to an early start, auditioning a number of players in the O'Fiaich Cup. They could get on with building a side in Division Two that might do damage in the summer.

But then certain things happened. The 5-16 to 0-7 tanking at the hands of Tyrone. The three defeats at the end of the league campaign. The relegation to Division Three. The rows at training that led to a walkout by one of the management team.

You wonder if they are under so much pressure that their actions are so rash. Certainly, they did not need an incident such as the pre-match row against Cavan.

Supporters will say that the row sharpened their focus and it is difficult to argue with that when they won the game in question. However, everything about their actions has created the impression that they are acting under extreme stress.

Last year, Armagh hosted a genial press night in which every reporter was granted separate and extensive access to players and management. It meant their game against Cavan received ample build-up and it is one significant part of selling the game to the public.

However, in the wake of that defeat, Armagh took some vicious abuse, as did manager Paul Grimley in particular.

It wasn't fair, or right. This year, Armagh decided not to host a press night. They are not putting forward any players forward for interview this week in an informal press ban.

They are, however, talking about appealing the suspensions to Andy Mallon, Brendan Donaghy and Kieran Toner that were upheld by the Central Hearing's Committee.

On top of that, they are publicly questioning the appointment of Joe McQuillan as referee of Saturday night's Ulster semi-final.

Armagh are currently wedded to a culture of self-created sideshows, seemingly determined to create a long-list of potential excuses.

Right now, they think they are victims. They may cultivate the siege mentality they think they need, but nothing was ever won through negative emotions.

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