Armagh ramp up bid to have U20 bans lifted
The Armagh county board will take their plea to have the suspensions imposed on nine U20 players overturned to the Central Appeals Committee in Croke Park tonight.
In all, 10 Armagh players were served with bans of varying severity in the aftermath of an extra-time fracas that marred their Ulster Championship semi-final win over Tyrone, with Sean McCarthy understood to be the only player to date to have had his suspension lifted.
Orchard County officials convened last night and decided to challenge the decision of the Ulster Council's Hearings Committee to endorse the suspensions which had been handed down by the provincial Competitions Control Committee.
With Sunday's Ulster U20 Championship final against Derry looming ever nearer, Armagh manager Peter McDonnell remains uncertain in relation to the composition of his team for their biggest match of the year to date.
As things stand, it is understood that Eoin Mulholland, Ryan Owens, Ross McQuillan, Ryan Garvey, Eoghan McDonnell and Kevin McAlinden, who have been regular starters, are set to miss the final.
Armagh chairman Michael Savage revealed that his board are "extremely disappointed" by the manner in which the players have been treated at provincial level.
"We know that invoking the Central Appeals Committee will provide certain difficulties in relation to the general preparations for Sunday's final but we feel that we simply cannot let the suspensions go unchallenged," said Savage.
"Let's just say that some of these lads have been banned for two games and others for three games. If a player gets a straight red card in a game at senior level, he usually serves no more than a one-match ban and this is where we have a major difficulty with these sanctions. We are extremely disappointed."
Manager McDonnell has once again had to put his plans for the game on hold and await the outcome of tonight's deliberations at Croke Park which could have a huge bearing on how Armagh fare in Sunday's decider.
"We will just wait and see what happens," said McDonnell. "Obviously having won the two games that earned us entry into the final we were looking forward very much to enjoying the build-up to the game and of course to the game itself but events in the interim have been anything but satisfactory from our viewpoint."
Derry boss Mickey Donnelly is keeping abreast of the situation and while he has sympathy for Armagh in their plight, he remains focused on steering his side to the Ulster title.
"We have come through two difficult games against Donegal and Down and obviously we are looking forward to completing our Ulster journey by lifting the title," said Donnelly.
It is believed that the Ulster Council are proceeding with arrangements for Sunday's game which is due to take place at Clones (11.45am) as the curtain-raiser to the Donegal v Fermanagh senior final.
Armagh vs Derry
Ulster U20 Championship Final
Clones, Sunday, 11.45am