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Armagh county star James Morgan out for rest of season

By Declan Bogue

Armagh have been hit by another injury blow, with the news that specialist man-marking defender James Morgan is gone for the rest of the season.

The Crossmaglen man is only back from his club's run to the All-Ireland semi-final which ended in defeat to Connacht champions Castlebar Mitchells, but now Orchard manager Kieran McGeeney  must plan for the rest of the National League and Championship without the 24-year-old.

"James has been in some pain because of his wrist injury and has now decided to have surgery on it. This means that he will miss the rest of the year," said McGeeney.

"This is very harsh on us as he is a huge loss but it's understandable as he has his own health and career to worry about."

The 2002 All-Ireland winning captain revealed that Morgan had been delaying going under the knife in order to play a full part in Cross' bid to make the St Patrick's Day club decider.

"He originally suffered the injury last year and tried to get through the whole season with Cross but it has just become very sore now and he feels it's time to have the surgery," McGeeney said.

"He is someone who does not know what 90% is on the field. But even though he plays his football with the utmost seriousness he is still one of the jokers in the team. As such, he is a good influence in the dressing-room.

"He is probably seen as one of the older hands because he is now 24 but when I was playing players were only viewed as older hands when they became 34!"

Armagh are away to Cavan tomorrow night, a team who they have serious history with following some stormy encounters in recent weeks. In 2014, there was an infamous scuffle before the game when the teams clashed over the issue of parading behind their own flag.

McGeeney listed out their walking wounded: "We are already without Kevin Dyas, Ciaran McKeever, Caolan Rafferty and Jamie Clarke of course, and the loss of James is another blow."

McGeeney has also questioned the volume of rule changes in Gaelic football over the past few seasons, and reiterated his plea for clarity on the rule surrounding the tackle.

Following last weekend's Congress, the Australian Rules-style 'Mark' was voted in and could be in place for this summer's Championship. Although the National League of 2010 featured the Mark, it was shelved ahead of the Championship.

Few of the present generation of players have played under such conditions.

"We tinker around with all these things, like Congress," said McGeeney.

"But one thing that continues to dog our game, is that somebody still needs to show me what a tackle is. Is it a one-handed, is it with an open hand?

"We don't implement the rules that we have and we continue to look at the symptoms, not the cause.

"We try to work extremely hard on our tackling, but whether it's Paul Galvin, Ciaran McKeever, Diarmuid Connolly, everybody carries baggage with them too.

"Some players can commit eight or nine fouls and others can't."

While not against the change imposed by the Mark, McGeeney questions why it might not be implemented right throughout the field of play.

"If it works out, great - I'll be all for it," he said.

"But I can't understand why we're giving it to midfielders. You would think if it deserves a platform should a corner-back or corner-forward catch the ball, it should be allowed because that's what you want and you're going to get more scores.

"I suppose the bottom line is I don't know. I'd be on for anything. The thing that we're most annoyed about our game is the stop-start nature of it.

"I love hurling because the players don't look for frees, but in our sport we look for them. We get them and we play for them. Gaelic football is a fast-moving aggressive sport with a lot of skill in it. And if we want to see that continue then the rules should reflect the way we want the game to be played."

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