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Ulster Championship: Armagh forced to wait for return of Clarke

By John Campbell

Armagh manager Paddy O’Rourke remains hopeful Ronan Clarke will be available for the Ulster Championship even though he won’t sample his first taste of club action for at least a fortnight.

Clarke’s achilles injury has kept him on the sidelines for almost a year now and while O’Rourke is anxious to have his gifted full-forward back in harness, he is resigned to exercising patience.

It had initially been hoped Clarke might get some game time for Pearse Og against Dromintee in the opening Armagh league game on Sunday but he will not line out for club action until next month.

Pearse Og chairman Gerard Davidson explains: “Obviously we are all very keen to see Ronan back but he cannot be rushed.

“I know there were rumours that he would play against Dromintee but these were wide of the mark.

“The fact is that Ronan will need another couple of weeks training before he can even think of playing club football.”

O’Rourke is monitoring Clarke’s progress carefully but is certainly not prepared to risk one of the county’s most valuable assets.

“We know that Ronan would need to get a few club games under his belt before he could be considered for county action,” says O’Rourke.

“We are not due to play Down in the Ulster Championship until the end of next month and we will assess his progress in the interim.”

Clarke himself is chomping at the bit but accepts peak fitness will be required before he can make his Armagh return.

“It’s very frustrating to have to sit and watch club and county games. I want to be out there playing but I know the consequences of coming back too soon,” says Clarke.

Meanwhile, Donegal manager Jim McGuinness is beset by problems ahead of Sunday’s Division Two final against Laois at Croke Park.

Skipper Michael Murphy is just one of five players on the injured list along with Neil McGee, Paddy McGrath, Kevin Cassidy and Adrian Hanlon.

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