Armagh must quickly rekindle their morale for qualifiers
Published 24/05/2013 | 07:59
Not surprisingly, Armagh is engulfed in a cloud of gloom just now.
Sunday's Ulster Championship defeat to Cavan came as a shock especially as the orchard county had finished their league campaign on a high by beating Galway and had looked set to take another step forward.
Instead, they fell at the first hurdle in the provincial series, victims of their own naivety and some strange decisions by inconsistent referee Maurice Deegan.
Not for the first time Deegan did not have a good day at the office and quite how he came to the conclusion that Jamie Clarke's goal should not have been allowed is mystifying.
Sure, there may have been an earlier tug on the player's jersey and while there is no such thing as a formal 'advantage rule' in gaelic football despite the fact that this is frequently alluded to, common sense and a desire to ensure the game kept flowing should surely have warranted giving the green light – as well as the green flag – to the score.
It was a significant call but at the end of the day Armagh cannot lay the blame for their travails at the feet of the Laois whistler.
Indeed, the players must now take a look in the mirror as they did not quite reflect the spirit, passion and commitment of their manager Paul Grimley.
He has come in for criticism for his failure to deploy a sweeper but Grimley adhered to a policy with which his players had been familiar since the start of the year and was understandably reluctant to change horses in midstream.
It was disappointing that Brendan Donaghy, such a key cog in the Armagh rearguard for so long, was unable to start the game.
And quite why Cian Mackey was allowed to run some 50 metres without scarcely a tackle being put in before planting the ball firmly in the Armagh net I cannot comprehend.
Grimley now has the task of rekindling morale for the qualifiers and Armagh can only hope to regain some lost pride and prestige through the back door.
The team played better as a unit in the second-half against Cavan without quite getting the rub of the green required and there is obviously work to be done on the training ground before they play again on June 29.
It seems a long way away at this point, but hopefully Armagh will use this intervening period to hone their strategy and resurrect their passion so a repeat of last year's first round qualifier exit can be avoided.