Armagh manager Paddy O’Rourke is hoping to see the ‘old firm’ of Steven McDonnell and Ronan Clarke team up again for next Saturday’s important National Football League Division Two clash against Laois at Portlaoise.
Clarke missed the Orchard County’s two fixtures to date against Meath and Westmeath because of injury and his return to the side would provide a significant boost for O’Rourke who has already warned that Laois pose a big threat to his team’s hopes of maintaining a push for promotion.
“Laois lost heavily to Donegal in their last outing and they will be very keen to make amends for this in front of their home crowd. They will have their Portlaoise players back from All Ireland Club championship duty and they will help to strengthen the side or at the very least offer options from the bench,” points out O’Rourke.
With Tony Kernan having picked up an injury against Westmeath and Ryan Henderson still striving to regain his best form, a reunion of McDonnell and Clarke as the twin strike force would certainly bolster Armagh’s chances in O’Moore Park.
McDonnell has made a huge impact in the National League to date having assembled 1-15 in two games. Given the close understanding that he enjoys with Clarke — they were in tandem when Armagh won their All Ireland title in 2002 — the Killeavy clubman may well further embellish his scoring ratio although he is much more focussed on team success.
“It really does not matter who gets the scores as long as we keep winning. We have a good mix of older and younger players in the side but while we were very happy to get that win over Westmeath we know that they were well below-par that day and we are certainly reading nothing into the result,” he said.
Meanwhile, Antrim manager Liam Bradley is poised to retain Michael Magill in the pivotal full-forward spot for the visit of Fermanagh to Casement Park in Division Three on Saturday night. Magill is proving the ideal target man since his return to the side and Bradley believes that he can bring out the best in those around him.
And while clearly pleased that St Gall’s have now reached the All Ireland Club final, Bradley is resigned to being without some of his most experienced troops for the greater part of the National League.
“Obviously we are all behind St Gall’s and we will be there to see them take on Kilmurry/Ibrickane on St Patrick’s Day at Croke Park. The fact that we will be without our St Gall’s contingent for the foreseeable future now offers those players hoping to become regulars in this Antrim side a better chance to show their wares as we have hugely important games coming up this month,” says Bradley.