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Shock exit leads Armagh chief O’Rourke to call it quits

By John Campbell

Roscommon 1-11 Armagh 1-09: Armagh manager Paddy O’Rourke has resigned following the team’s surprise dismissal from the All-Ireland football qualifiers by unfancied Roscommon.

Former Down All-Ireland winning captain O’Rourke was in his third year in charge of the Orchard County and had restructured his line-up in the hope of rekindling the success which the county enjoyed in the decade that ended in 2009.

While Armagh’s demotion to Division Two of the National League in April caused rumblings of discontent within the county, it had been hoped that with their Crossmaglen Rangers contingent back on board the team might make an impact in the Ulster and All-Ireland Championships.

Defeat in the quarter-final of the provincial series by Tyrone was followed by yesterday’s setback against Des Newtown’s Roscommon and O’Rourke’s resignation will not cause undue surprise.

O’Rourke’s assistant Paul Grimley has also stood down although he may be involved in some capacity with the county in the future.

Many Armagh followers relish the prospect of enticing Kieran McGeeney from Kildare to take charge of their side, but their 2002 All-Ireland winning captain is coping with the challenge of trying to steer the Lily Whites through the qualifiers following their shock elimination from the Leinster championship by rank outsiders Meath yesterday.

Once again, Jamie Clarke was Armagh’s prime source of scores and his goal and three well-taken points had helped his side into a strong position by half-time when they enjoyed a 1-7 to 0-5 lead.

Inspired by sharpshooter Donie Shine, who scooped 0-6, and a goal on the resumption from Senan Kilbride, Roscommon outscored their hosts 1-6 to 0-2 in the second-half to claim a notable victory.

In O’Rourke’s first year in charge Armagh lost to Dublin in the All-Ireland qualifiers and then last year they caused a major upset in the Ulster Championship by overcoming Down before losing to Derry in the semi-final.

They subsequently beat Wicklow after a replay in the qualifiers before exiting at the hands of Tyrone.

O’Rourke introduced a number of new players this year including Aidan Forker, Caolan Rafferty, Stefan Campbell, Gavin McParland, Rory Grugan, John Kingham and Anto Duffy, but with time catching up with some more seasoned players, achieving a winning blend proved elusive.

O’Rourke may not be the only Ulster manager to step down, either. Derry boss John Brennan is under fire following his team’s defeat by Longford on Saturday and his position is expected to be reviewed by the county board.

Derry have won only two competitive matches since the start of February although Brennan has been forced to deal with an inordinately lengthy injury list.

It is understood that he will meet with board officials in the near future when this season’s league and championship performances will be discussed.

He has completed two seasons in charge of the Oak Leafs having previously achieved considerable success at championship level with clubs in different counties.

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