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Armagh boss Paddy powered Down to Sam glory

By Micheal McGeary

Paddy O’Rourke’s place in Down folklore is assured.

Leading the county out of a 23-year championship famine to lift the Sam Maguire in 1991 made certain of that.

The county manager’s job eventually came his way, before both Ross Carr and James McCartan followed in his footsteps.

He guided the Mourne county to a rare provincial final appearance, Tyrone denying him silverware by winning the replay.

He remains totally philosophical about that demanding and frustrating period in his life.

“I enjoyed the break (afterwards) in that I got to watch different teams and enjoyed going to the matches,” he said.

“I was still doing things with different clubs, bits and pieces, here and there.

“It probably gave me a taste for county management again.”

O’Rourke sends his Armagh team out to face Monaghan at Casement Park on Sunday in the Ulster Championship quarter-finals after their preliminary round win over Derry.

Even a supreme optimist could scarcely have imagined just how well his first league season with Armagh would have worked out.

With just a trace of a smile he said: “If the championship was to work out as well as the league I would be very happy. The reality is the league is only a means of getting the team ready.”

There was a time many years ago when Armagh were dubbed the friendliest county in Ireland by virtue of the number of challenge games they played.

There’s little danger of that happening under O’Rourke’s watch.

He much prefers in-house matches where you have 30 players battling it out for 15 starting places.

Certainly it’s a format that has worked wonders for both Tyrone football and Kilkenny hurling.

As for how he became Armagh manager, O’Rourke maintains he didn’t go looking for it.

“It actually came to me and I always had a good feeling about it,” he said.

“I knew Armagh to be a great football county where they care passionately about the sport. Never at any time did I have any reservations.”

As a player with Down he won All Ireland minor, under-21 and senior medals.

He was equally successful with his club Burren, winning numerous Down and Ulster club championships as well as two All Irelands.

He said: “The one great thing about this game is that you are constantly learning. I’ve learned from people I played with and also from managers I played under — and more importantly than anything else you can also learn from other people’s mistakes.”

In O’Rourke’s playing days with Burren the late Sean Murdock was a constant inspiration, a man who rarely raised his voice.

“I learned so much from Sean, a great man to work with, very straight and honest. You learn so much from a man like him and it’s that kind of thing that moulds you into the person you are,” he said.

“You always have to try and keep things in perspective. Life will go on, win, lose or draw.”

Meanwhile, O’Rourke has made only one enforced change for Sunday’s clash, with Vincent Martin coming into the full-back line for the injured James Lavery.

Kieron Toner, who moved to midfield against Derry will play at centre-field while Ronan Clarke and Jamie Clarke are named on the bench.

Armagh: P Hearty, A Mallon, B Donaghy, V Martin, P Duffy, C McKeever, F Moriarty, C Vernon, K Toner, M Mackin, A Kernan, G Swift, B Mallon, S McDonnell, R Henderson.

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