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O'Rourke frustrated as Armagh choose to keep silent

By Declan Bogue

For the second time of this Ulster Championship, reporters waited outside the Roslea Road dressing room waiting for a manager to deliver the customary post-match comments after playing a Monaghan team in Clones.

And for the second time, they were greeted with picture, but no sound. Just like Mickey Harte a fortnight before, Armagh manager Paul Grimley would not speak to the media.

It is not confined to the management either. After the Cavan victory, Aaron Kernan agreed to all media requests. This time, he would not speak. Evidently, Armagh are on a blanket media ban.

Maybe there is a point to all this, but it's hard to see it.

So it was left to Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke to provide the perspective from the sidelines.

And as the game reached his climax, he wouldn't have been privy to the television replays that showed Aaron Kernan being impeded in the final play of the match.

Perhaps because of that, he had a quick word with referee Joe McQuillan as he left the field.

"From where I was, I thought it was a very innocuous free," O'Rourke claimed.

"We thought that we got a few pulls during the game that we didn't get frees for. If they are going to be given that easy, then they should be given in the first minute as well as the last minute.

"I felt we were defending well. We were a point up and the game was over. I thought it was a very soft free to give against us. It was very annoying at that stage of the game."

O'Rourke's frustration is entirely understandable. Not long before, a blatant tug on Christopher McGuinness went unpunished. They might also have had a decent penalty shout when Padraig Donaghy was held back in the second half.

He continued, "We would have felt that our forwards were pulled the same way and we got no free for it. Then to give a free like that, a game changer, with time almost up, it was very hard to take.

"Maybe it will show later on that it was a pull. I don't know. There is no point saying. To me it looked like a harmless enough challenge."

There are three teams left in the championship, and along with Donegal these two teams are adept at playing a defensive game. Armagh's version of the blanket wasn't unexpected and it led to an attritional encounter.

"That's why people play the blanket defence, because it leads to frustration and it leads to mistakes and so on," explained O'Rourke.

"We knew that would happen, it's part and parcel of it. So it's all on whoever learns the most next week."

He continued, "We prepared really well, I suppose we just didn't get to grip with the game as we would have liked at times. We weren't as dynamic as we were in previous games but look, every day you go out you don't play the way you want.

"On one hand we are glad to get another day out, it's going to be a massive battle again and Armagh are going to have the three players back so it's all to play for."

With all the talk of the missing players, did it impact on Monaghan's thinking coming into this?

"As I said during the week they were going to have quality players coming in. So we were more concentrating on our own game and trying to get our own game right," said the Fermanagh schoolteacher.

While Armagh will bring a stronger team, Monaghan will also expect to deliver a more polished performance.

"You would like to think so," smiled O'Rourke.

"They will be better, the game will bring them on as well but hopefully it will bring us on as well. That's the challenge. There's lots of areas for us to address and improve and see if we can."

We missed suspended trio, admits McDonnell

While Armagh's players and management team would not speak to the media after the game, selector Peter McDonnell did break the silence in a brief radio interview prior to the match on Saturday night.

Speaking to Radio Ulster, McDonnell, who was Armagh manager in 2008 and 2009 and won an Ulster title in his first season in charge, was asked if the suspensions of Andy Mallon, Brendan Donaghy and Kieran Toner had much of an impact upon the squad.

He answered, "It would be a lie to say that it didn't have an impact on the panel, it certainly did have an impact on the panel."

Focusing on matters that arose out of their first round clash with Cavan, when the pre-match parade was marred by ugly scenes of clashes between the two teams, McDonnell continued: "We're not happy with the way things have materialised. We are not happy with the way that some of our players were singled out. We are not happy that other players were ignored completely and we think we got a raw deal in all of this.

"We are not happy with the way the authorities dealt with this here, cast judgements before hearings were heard. We are not happy with an awful lot of the media attentions that skewed what the huge reality was for Armagh.

"So there are a lot of things we are not happy with. What we have now are a group of players who are clearly focused on this task on hand."

Suggesting that Armagh have been wronged in this episode, he added: "All anybody wants in this worlds is fair play. We don't feel we got fair play. We don't feel we got fair representation. And to that end, it's fair enough to say that it has galvanised us.

"At this point in time, there's nothing more we'll be doing, just focusing on this match."

Belfast Telegraph

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