Armagh take appeals path in bid to gain a final boost
Armagh plan to appeal against the proposed suspensions handed down to 10 of their players following the serious fracas that marred extra-time in the county's Ulster U20 football championship semi-final against Tyrone on Friday week last.
County board chairman Michael Savage has confirmed that the first three of the individual appeals will be heard by the central hearings committee at Croke Park tonight with the remainder due to be heard over the course of the week.
"We feel we have grounds for appealing against these proposed sanctions and obviously we would like to see the individual hearings all conducted in the early part of the week if at all possible," said Savage.
"We are awaiting confirmation on details relating to the remaining appeals that are to be heard."
Armagh remain hopeful that at least some of their players will be cleared to participate in Sunday's Ulster U20 championship final which will go ahead as the curtain-raiser to the Fermanagh v Donegal senior final at St Tiernach's Park, Clones on Sunday.
"Obviously we would like to be able to field out strongest possible team but we must wait and see how the appeals process goes from our perspective," stated Savage.
"Obviously it would be a great pity if some young players were to miss out on the opportunity of playing in what would undoubtedly be the biggest game of their careers to date but we will have to be patient for the moment."
Armagh manager Peter McDonnell, a school principal, spent the weekend assessing his squad and formulating his strategy for the match for which Derry will be strong favourites, having beaten Donegal and Down.
It is understood that key players such as Rian O'Neill, Conor Turbett, Calum O'Neill and Barry McCambridge escaped censure in the game against Tyrone and they are expected to be in the vanguard of the side on Sunday.
Manager McDonnell, while accepting that his side are facing an uphill battle, nevertheless intends that "an all-out bid" should be made to take delivery of the U20 trophy.
"My focus here has got to be on our panel and our players," insisted McDonnell.
"We have to deal with the aftermath of what has happened. We have to put it to bed and get on with our preparations for a big Armagh performance in an Ulster final."
"Regardless of what happens from here on in, his will be my sole objective. My aim is to gather a group of young men that will be determined to play the same exciting brand of football that they have played in our two matches to date in the competition."
"In doing so, I would hope that they will make this final a real contest.
"We will be making an all-out bid to win but we know that the ball is very much in Derry's court at this point in time."
"In some ways, it will be awkward for the Derry squad and management dealing with this issue and they have their own challenges to face in this respect. I think that all of the superfluous things to football matches will be removed from our camp in this instance."
He added: "We have been reduced to the bare bones but it's no time for nonsense or idle talk. Our focus will be on playing football in its purest form and we certainly hope that we will be part of a showpiece."
"As things stand, it can't get any worse. I think things can only get better. Anything that we might possibly achieve we would hope to achieve solely on merit - that in my view is what it is all about."
Derry, meanwhile, have stepped up their preparations for the match, although it is not known if Jude McAtamney, who was so impressive in the quarter-final defeat of Donegal, will be available after sustaining an injury in the semi-final win over Down.
The Oak leaf side has already shown that it has considerable assets on the bench, however.
"There is strong competition for places and that's precisely the way we want it for a match such as this," said manager Mickey Donnelly.