Jimmy Smyth has hailed Armagh’s All Ireland Minor football success as a hugely significant breakthrough.
Smyth, now a respected BBC pundit, and captain when Armagh reached the 1977 All Ireland senior final against Dublin, maintains that Armagh people are again talking about football — and not events off the field.
“The victory over Mayo switches the whole focus back to what we’re all about and that is playing and promoting the sport.
“It isn’t solely on preparing teams to win All Irelands, but being successful helps create an interest among young people and it’s certainly much easier to play for a winning side than a losing one,” he said.
Smyth makes the point that it’s all too often forgotten that since winning a first All Ireland senior title in 2002, Armagh added an All Ireland Under 21 crown in 2004 before adding the minor championship last Sunday in some style.
There’s also the small matter of six senior Ulster championships, two Ulster Under 21s and two minor in the noughties for good measure which suggests it’s not all bad news in the Orchard County.
Smyth, recently retired from teaching at St Paul’s High School, Lurgan, was delighted two of his proteges, Thomas McAlinden and Chris McCafferty, figured in last Sunday’s success.
Armagh centre half forward Andrew Murnin was a deserving man of the match winner and Smyth, no mean number 11 himself, is high in his praise of the St Paul’s clubman.
“He really epitomised the Armagh team ethic. He never stopped running all day and his contribution was huge.
“And yet you couldn’t meet a quieter more unassuming lad.
“After being presented with his man of the match award he came back into the dressing room, packed it into his bag and that was it — no big deal, no fuss,” Smyth added.
The Armagh County Board has come under fire after Paul Grimley’s controversial move to big rivals Monaghan. But Smyth, whose name has been synonymous with Clan na Gael for years, believes much of the criticism is unjustified.
“The County Board had in place certain procedures for appointing a new manager.
“They carried those out to the letter of the law leaving it to the clubs to nominate potential candidates for manager.
“Then Paul Grimley intimated he wasn’t interested in the Armagh job and so Armagh had to move on which they did by meeting with the players.
“The Board is now going a step further in that it’s willing to look outside the county for a new manager.
“Success at All Ireland senior, minor and Under 21 in the last eight years is proof that the future is bright and it’s important Armagh get the right man for the job.”