Travel bug claims Armagh’s danger man Clarke for 2013 season

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Sunday, November 18th, 2012
Sport

Armagh will be without the services of Crossmaglen superstar Jamie Clarke for the 2013 league and championship campaigns with the player opting out for the season to travel.

It is a major blow to the Orchard men’s ambitions going in to a new season with essentially a new and revamped team from last term after manager Paul Grimley had a ‘clear out’ of players to make way for new blood. Grimley has dropped 14 players of the 2012 championship panel.

The players to make way include 2003 All-Ireland finalist Andy Mallon, Malachy Mackin, Micheal O’Rourke, Billy Joe Padden and Anto Duffy but the Pearse Óg clubman brought in 12 new players, including Crossmaglen Rangers pair Paul McKeown and Stephen Finnegan.

The news broke on Thursday that Clarke would not be playing for Armagh in 2013. Clarke however tweeted that he never spoke to any media outlets and that he would make a comment after Crossmaglen’s run in the club Championship comes to an end, which recently is usually St Patrick’s Day in Croke Park.

However, Armagh manager Paul Grimley has confirmed that Clarke has made himself unavailable for selection. “Jamie spoke to me about a month ago and expressed his desire to travel,” Grimley revealed.

“Myself and the Armagh county board did everything we possibly could to try and change his mind. But it wasn’t to be. He has confirmed to me that he was definitely going, so I wished him all the very best. He’s a great player, he’s a great lad, and he’s entitled to do with his life what he wishes.”

Grimley added, “I’m just a football manager at the end of the day; I’m not a careers counselor or anything like that, so I wished him all the best and I will introduce someone new to the squad now this weekend.”

Clarke, who is one of the best attacking footballers not only within Armagh but in the country with a very natural eye for goal, will be a big loss for Armagh. He spent time in New York this summer playing for Leitrim and it is clear like many young men of his age that he enjoys life on the road.

But, what does this say about the current team that Grimley has assembled? Is there a player capable to step up to the plate and take on the mantle of Armagh’s new target man and goal threat? With Stephen McDonnell hanging up his county boots it leaves the Orchard men short on recognised and proven target men at this level.

Grimley indicated that Armagh will deal with it positively. “I suppose a lot of people out there will look upon this as a massive negative,” he said.

“It’s obviously not great news but at the end of the day I view it as a blip in an upward curve. We will deal with it and move on. I wish Jamie every success and all the happiness on his travels and I wish Crossmaglen all the best in the championship.”

Grimley stressed that Armagh is about more than one player and that it takes a great deal of commitment, time and effort to play inter-county football.

“I can only speak about Armagh and this Armagh set-up has to be a stand-alone identity. It has to be an identity that relies on no-one; no one individual and going forward when the managerial job is up for grabs again, that the new incumbent of the job won’t be coming into a whole new thing to him.

“And likewise players. The strength of the team is the players in the team. The lads are amateurs. They are entitled to do what they like and I can only put demands on their leisure time and that’s all I can do. Last weekend, we had fellas in the squad who gave up their Saturday day’s pay to come and train with us.

Grimley added, “We have fellas who are changing their work to come and train with us. Fellas who are coming long distances to come and train with us. Those are the players I have to focus on and when you are the manager, you are the manager of all the players, not just one or two.”

The 2013 season promises to be a very challenging and exciting year for Armagh, will there be a new Jamie Clarke or Stephen McDonnell unearthed? Time will tell.


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