Quarter-final place shows how far Armagh have come says McConville
Former Armagh star Oisín McConville has revealed that the present Orchard team has wildly exceeded his expectations for the season, ahead of their All-Ireland quarter-final against Donegal tomorrow in Croke Park (throw-in 4pm).
"At the start of the year I wrote a piece saying that if they got to an All-Ireland quarter-final that would have been serious progression for this Armagh team," the 2002 All-Ireland winner said.
"That position didn't really change the fact that we were relegated. The only thing that changed is I felt we wouldn't get there. But now that we are there, I think what we have done is already serious progression. I think we probably couldn't have hoped for more, if we are reasonably honest about it."
He explained his theory on how teams improve.
"One of the reasons the strong are getting stronger and the weak are getting weaker, is that whenever you have a run in the Championship, the first thing you get is an opportunity to get to know boys, believe it or not.
"You get the chance to almost live with them because, if you are going away on training weekends, you are training more, there are more get-togethers, more video analysis. Those sort of things build a bit of camaraderie. You get to know boys, maybe a lad that you thought you might not get on with, then you find that you could actually get on with them.
"The only catalyst for that is working hard, the next part of that is winning. Whenever you start winning, people start to buy into that team spirit and that club atmosphere that you are basically hoping for all the time.
"So I would be happy getting to a quarter-final. Anything after that is not just bonus territory, it's dream territory for this particular Armagh team.
"I think they are basically a Division Two team that have over-achieved in the Championship and, as a result of that, have probably helped the next line of Armagh players coming along."
However, McConville is less than impressed with the ongoing impasse between the Armagh squad and management, and the media, with a leaky media ban since before the Championship.
"I don't see any worth in it whatsoever," McConville stated.
"I was of the impression that it was sort of going away or being accepted. Armagh come out and arrange that press event (on Wednesday) and then to pull at the last minute, to be honest it smacks of a county who are maybe trying to hide behind it, to deflect attention from the actual game."
Meanwhile, Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke has informed the Belfast Telegraph they are carrying a number of ongoing injury concerns before they face defending All-Ireland champions Dublin in tomorrow's headliner (throw-in 6pm).
Already down captain and midfielder Owen Lennon, forcing the versatile Darren Hughes to play midfield, the Oriel men are further stretched with Dick Clerkin struggling with bruising on a leg bone, sustained during the first half of last weekend's victory over Kildare.
"Dick would be a doubt alright," O'Rourke said.
"Unfortunately, around the middle of the field, where Owen Lennon is obviously out, it hasn't featured for us at all. Gavin Doogan has been struggling with injury and now Dick's injury isn't ideal.
"He (Clerkin) was doing a bit of light jogging last night but, again, it's going to be touch and go whether he is going to be able to give us much at the weekend. It's unfortunate, but we have a lot of personnel around that middle sector who are affected."
All year, Monaghan have used a number of players in midfield, at one stage starting the second half against Kildare with full-forward Kieran Hughes in the engine room alongside his brother.
"This year it has given us a lot of bother as regards the injury list. Things would be a lot easier if you had three or four recognised midfielders who were all fit. We have not had that for a big part of the year," explained O'Rourke.
"It's not ideal, but the boys are adaptable and flexible and we are making the most of the situation."
Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke has named an unchanged side from that which started the Round 4B qualifier against Kildare. Despite injury concerns, Dick Clerkin is named in midfield alongside Darren Hughes.
Monaghan (v Dublin): R Beggan; C Boyle, D Wylie, C Walshe; D Mone, V Corey, F Kelly; D Clerkin, D Hughes; P McKenna, P Finlay, K Hughes; T Kerr, C McGuinness, C McManus (capt)