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A beautiful day at Croke is McDonnell’s target for Armagh

By John Campbell

One of the most poignant images of last season’s championship was Steven McDonnell’s controversial red carding against Monaghan in Clones.

McDonnell was dismissed after being involved in an incident with Monaghan defender Dessie Mone.

Fast forward to the 2010 season and the Killeavy stalwart is a changed man.

Nobody ever doubted his ability, but this time the hunger is back.

“The sending off against Monaghan in the 2009 championship was a real low point in my career and it made me seriously consider my future,” he said.

“But it also made me realise that I hadn’t been at my best over the last two seasons and the last thing I wanted was to finish my career on a red card.”

Revelling in his new role as captain he led the Orchard County to Allianz League Division Two success with victory over Down in Croke Park.

Then it was on to Celtic Park and a championship showdown with old adversaries Derry.

Approaching half-time Derry seemed to have wrested the initiative courtesy of a well worked Paddy Bradley goal.

But sensing the danger up stepped McDonnell with a number of well-struck frees to leave it all square at half-time.

Not content with that sizeable contribution he then set up the chance for Jamie Clarke’s crucial second half goal.

“I’m very happy with the football we’re playing at the moment,” he said.

“We certainly feel that within our squad we’ve players that wee bit more than in the past.

“There were examples of that in our league campaign and again against Derry in Celtic Park.

“As a forward myself I much prefer to be part of a more attacking unit than in the past.

“Possibly in the past we were guilty of sitting back and defending leads.

“Ideally your best option is to have a spread of scores throughout the side and yet if you look at the various sides there’s always one or two players getting the bulk of the scores. You can see with our forwards that more players are beginning to believe in themselves and are now prepared to take on responsibility.”

Training with his colleagues, the Armagh captain sees at first hand the potential in the side and he’s impressed.

McDonnell, a keen golfer when time allows, makes the point that under Joe Kernan they were a strong defensive unit and while some players have moved on others have stepped into the breach.

Earlier this season McDonnell reflected on how a U2 concert in Croke Park had whetted his appetite for a return to Dublin in an Armagh jersey.

Ironically it now seems McDonnell has a much greater chance of playing Croke Park in 2010 after Bono suffered a serious back injury prompting U2 to cancel a number of major shows. But for Stevie the show must go on beginning with Monaghan at Casement Park on Sunday afternoon.

Belfast Telegraph


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