Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Clarke exit is significant blow for Armagh but emerging talent can seize chance

Jamie Clarke

The loss of Jamie Clarke is undoubtedly a big blow to Crossmaglen Rangers in their bid to remain as Armagh champions – and that's just for starters.

But the player's decision to head to the US has to be respected.

It was anticipated that he might head off following Armagh's exit from the All-Ireland qualifiers and of course he spent the early part of this year globetrotting.

However, we have to get on with life without Jamie (pictured) although coming on the back of the loss of James Morgan and Stephen Finnegan who were injured in a road accident last week this certainly makes inroads into our resources.

I plan to name 34 or 35 players next week who will make up our championship panel but for the moment we must press ahead with our league commitments.

Paul Kernan's loss at full-back because of a recurring problem is being keenly felt while obviously the retirement of scoring ace Oisin McConville robbed the attack of one of its most lethal finishers.

McConville had taken time out to consider his future at club level but while he will no longer be active on the field of play there is a chance that he will enter the management sphere at some level in the future.

Obviously as manager I would be very keen to see Crossmaglen Rangers continue to prosper but it is going to be that little bit more difficult now although we have some emerging talent coming through at the moment with players like Kieran Cumiskey and Kyle Carragher stepping up to the plate.

Meanwhile, Donegal are discovering that retaining the Sam Maguire Cup is a mission fraught with difficulties and spliced with a dash of controversy.

While manager Jim McGuinness downplayed the Allianz League and clearly shed no tears even when his side were relegated to Division Two, he indicated then that he would be keeping his powder dry for the championship.

On Sunday next they will meet Mayo, the team they beat in last year's All-Ireland final, in a quarter-final that will hog the national spotlight for several reasons not least of which will be the fact that people will want to scrutinise Donegal more closely.

McGuinness's assertion that four of his players have suffered concussion in recent matches and that the defensive tactics employed by Laois last weekend were questionable have focussed the kind of attention on the All-Ireland champions that they could well do without.

I am not sure if McGuinness was using the media to get a certain message across this week or to foster a 'the world is against us' mentality thus perhaps solidifying spirit for the renewal of rivalry with Mayo.

Either way, the Donegal boss now finds himself on an unforgiving pedestal with the vultures ready to pounce.