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Pain of 2013 is still haunting Armagh's Jamie Clarke

By John Campbell

Armagh forward Jamie Clarke can vividly recall last year's Ulster Championship preliminary round meeting with Cavan – but for all the wrong reasons.

Paul Grimley's side were swept out of the competition by a bubbly Breffni outfit before having their subsequent brief tenure in the qualifiers surprisingly terminated by Galway.

Clarke, anxious to see the Orchard County regain credibility when they renew their rivalry with Terry Hyland's vibrant outfit at the Athletic Grounds shortly, is emphatic that the side will have learned from their 2013 mistakes.

"The mood wasn't right in the camp to be honest," concedes Clarke.

"We were not as well prepared for it as we could have been, but when the draw for this year's championship was made and our name came out of the hat along with that of Cavan, from that point on the match has remained very much on our radar.

"The fact that we are at home this time gives us an edge, I feel.

"We know what Cavan are going to bring to the table and what system they are going to adopt.

"They have been sticking to a defensive set-up, but as we saw when they played Roscommon in the Division Three final this will only take a team so far."

The return of Gearoid McKiernan to the Cavan side, though, is viewed as an extra plus-factor by Clarke, yet he insists that Armagh will be better prepared this time round.

It was in the wake of last year's defeat to Cavan that RTE analyst Joe Brolly criticised Armagh boss Paul Grimley for his approach to the game – something that grated with Armagh players and fans.

"I don't think it was Paul Grimley's fault that we lost. He didn't play in the game," stresses Clarke.

"He would have been extremely disappointed with the way things went. It was our fault as players that things did not work out. There was probably a lack of communication on the pitch, but all that is in the past.

"There's nothing to be gained by looking back, we have to look forward to this forthcoming championship."

And he believes that the time has come for Armagh to front up to what will be a huge challenge.

"We have got to stop making excuses and instead deliver better performances. We will make sure that we have everything in place so that we can really do ourselves justice. Once we take to the field against Cavan we will leave no stone unturned in our bid to reach the semi-finals," states Clarke.

With some of their injured players returning and a spirit of defiance having been rekindled, Clarke suggests that Armagh have positives on which to reflect.

"Our build-up so far has been excellent, we have some fine new young players in the team, we will be at home and with the backing of a big crowd we will have a massive incentive to deliver the goods," adds the Crossmaglen ace.

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