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Campbell vows to step up and fill void left by Clarke's Armagh exit

By Declan Bogue

Armagh fans hurting at the absence of Jamie Clarke for the rest of the year will be heartened to hear that Stefan Campbell is pledging to step up and become the main man.

In his fifth playing season, the 25-year-old Clan na Gael man admits that an upcoming National League campaign in the Ulster-centric Division Two is a major test, but is happy to set himself some personal challenges too.

"I am going to have to step up," said Campbell.

"I have been here long enough now, I played with Jamie for three or four years. He is gone now. I am looking at this as an opportunity to become the main man. A lot of younger lads are coming through, similar to the way I looked up to Jamie when I came into the panel.

"And if I can perform like Jamie has performed in previous years, I will get a reaction out of those younger lads so I am really looking forward to the year ahead."

Campbell also raised the question of whether Armagh were sub-consciously relying on Clarke to do something special in games, and made the point that the other attackers could be greater than the sum of their parts in an attack with the Crossmaglen man.

"Jamie has class that is second to none but I think it is more about how the opposition see him; they look at Jamie as the marquee forward so he was often double-marked and it allowed other players to be freed up," explained Campbell.

"As a team we are not going to dwell too much on Jamie's decision to leave but I think we have adequate players, like Gavin (McParland), who can score goals - and you have Andrew Murrin too and other young players and it will be interesting to see how they get on."

Campbell has changed his occupation from an electrician to working for the bookmakers, Tommy French. He believes not having to go onto building sites has revitalised him and looking ahead to the league campaign, with a trip away to Meath this Sunday in Navan looming, he emphasises the need to put wins together.

He commented: "If you are winning games you are going to go into the next game confident, whereas if you are constantly scrapping you are fighting against relegation.

"If you are constantly getting beat you are not going to be 100 per cent going into the next game. If you are at the bottom of the table, the players are going to be edgy, the crowd is going to be on your back and you are going to end up making mistakes because of that.

"If you are winning, the crowd is on your side, players will express themselves more and they will flourish."

Such a statement could almost be a coded message to the Armagh support. Last season, they witnessed a very public humiliation in their Championship defeat to Donegal at The Athletic Grounds.

Competing in a much stronger league after winning promotion to Division Two, some patience is required. On that score, Campbell denies that the length of time of Kieran McGeeney's deal as manager - five years - leads the players to think time is on their side.

"It depends which way you look at it," he said.

"Kieran is in his third year when you consider he was in with Paul (Grimley, previous manager) too, and we ourselves described that as our transition period. Everyone thought it would be difficult to kick on after getting to the quarters and losing to Donegal by a point.

"Sometimes you get set-backs, you have to deal with them.

"As far as Kieran's length of contract, that has no bearing on the players, we don't think of that. It has never been mentioned. Maybe there are some younger players who are thinking that they have got four or five years, but that would be the wrong mind-set to have.

"If we play the same way that we did in Division Three last year we will be relegated this year. If we play the way we played last year, when we were at 50 or 60 per cent and still got promoted… we should not have been a Division Three team in the first place."

Belfast Telegraph


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