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Armagh aces' lack of club duty isn't in GAA spirit: Shane McConville

By Declan Bogue

A rule forbidding Armagh's county stars from playing with their clubs for the rest of June has sparked anger and led to a possible revolt against a 'summer league' in the county.

This weekend features a double round of league fixtures but after that, Kieran McGeeney's county players will go into cold storage again until the start of July.

Since the Orchard County's defeat in the Ulster Championship to Cavan last Sunday, the amount of club games featuring county players in Armagh has come under scrutiny following comments made by Joe Brolly about the 'serious ill health of the county game and the damage it is wreaking on the clubs'.

Shane McConville, a former county team-mate of McGeeney, has revealed his frustrations as a club manager of Maghery.

He stated: "It's not about Kieran McGeeney. I understand his predicament and I understand that it's his job to see Armagh go as far in the Championship as they possibly can.

"But I think a line has to be drawn here very quickly. We are definitely losing sight of what club and county are about and what the GAA is about."

He went on to give an example pertaining to the club he manages. He said: "For instance, we played Ballymacnab in a club game about five weeks ago. Aidan and Stefan Forker both gave performances that were worthy of going to watch the match alone. I have not seen those two players since."

Armagh find themselves in the 'A' side of the round one qualifiers on Saturday, June 18.

The Armagh county board have organised a 'summer league' to be played without county players during this time, but it is in danger with some clubs threatening to pull out. The move to clear June of club fixtures featuring county players was passed in January at a meeting of club delegates.

McConville admits that he finds it difficult to work up enthusiasm for a summer league without his best players.

"I prefer the league and I wanted the league to continue and to be played right through. I was going against it," he said.

As for the worth of a summer league, he said: "You are patronising people.

"This is the situation. As soon as the National League ended and before the Championship started, there was supposed to be a period of five or six weeks that all county players were allowed to play for their club.

"That has not materialised. Those are the bare facts."

He added that county stars' lack of club action might also be driven from within the playing panel.

"There is an inner circle within most county panels. Experienced players are going to players and telling them 'collectively here, we are not playing. Even though we know we should be playing, we are in this for the whole hog, we are not going to relent here until Armagh get as far as they can get'," he said.

"There are 35 men inside Armagh being led about like a dog with no stick. And it's not right."

Belfast Telegraph


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