Steven McDonnell: Armagh must shut out the noise and turn collective focus to the Championship

Relegation will be a blow to the Armagh players but they need to get this out of their minds, which I am sure the management team will help them to do Picture: Philip Walsh.
Relegation will be a blow to the Armagh players but they need to get this out of their minds, which I am sure the management team will help them to do Picture: Philip Walsh.

The last week has been a turbulent one for Armagh with all the talk of fallouts, injuries and players dropping off the panel and to top this off, getting relegated on the final day of the season.

The name on everyone’s lips was Rían O’Neill and the conspiracy theories being bandied about the place about him.

Rían is Armagh’s highest profile player and one of the best players in the country, so talk of a possible fallout or an injury to our marquee player was always going to create speculation and headlines.

What Armagh supporters have to realise is whatever goes on in-house should always remain in-house.

With the Championship upon us in a couple of weeks, the team has more important matters to be dealing with at the minute than listening to false hearsays and voice notes that circulated, which I would imagine went around with the intention to try and create a divide.

I mentioned the relegation earlier and make no mistake, it will be a blow to the players.

However, the fact is they need to get this out of their minds, which I am sure the management team will help them to do.

Boil it down and there's nothing that can be done about it now and they cannot afford to have any baggage or hangover going into the Antrim game.

Andy McEntee's team will be underdogs but have absolutely nothing to lose and will give Armagh any amount of headaches if allowed to play football.

When you are involved in county football, you are always in the spotlight and this brings its own pressure, particular in the modern world of social media and message boards.

Until you are involved at the deep end, you will never really feel the stress that this can put on someone and it's inevitable that each and every player makes mistakes.

Each and every management team makes them too, some more so than others and they get scrutinised for doing so which is understandable, but do they deserve to receive the level of abuse that they get online in some quarters by some individuals? I think not.

Until you read some of these comments, you don’t actually realise how many experts of Gaelic football there are out there and how simple inter-county management is.

The reality is management at any level is one of the most difficult roles anyone can ever do, and I applaud anyone that gives their time and effort into managing and coaching, whether it is an U8 team all the way up to senior inter-county level.

I myself question some decisions made by our management team, but I never feel the need to put it out there on a public forum for people to latch onto.

Every club and county team in the country has their fair share of begrudgers and regardless of style of play implemented, results in favour or team selection, they will want nothing more than to have a good moan.

I’ve experienced this myself but all I ever concerned myself with was that the group of players and coaches I was working alongside. If they understood and respected my direction, then really and truly, that is all that mattered.

As a country, we are renowned for having our begrudgers, but when it comes to the GAA, they seem to be more prevalent.

Back on the field of play, Monaghan once again proved to be the masters of survival.

When the odds were stacked against them, especially playing away to Mayo, the in-form team in Division One, then you wouldn’t have expected anything other than a home win.

However, Monaghan have proved over the last couple of years that they love an obstacle and a challenge, and when a performance is required, they are more than capable of coming up with the goods.

They beat Mayo by six points in Castlebar and a huge amount of credit must be given to them.

A result like this can instil a team with a lot of confidence and heading into the Championship no team will enjoy playing against this Monaghan team.

They are now a well-seasoned Division One team and have a great mix of youth and experience in their squad and will be on a high preparing for their Ulster quarter-final against Tyrone next month.

On the evidence of the League, the west is awake with Mayo and Galway making it to the Division One final.

Galway are improving rapidly under Pádraic Joyce and have serious firepower up front.

If they can build on last week’s performance and result against Kerry, then winning silverware on the national stage will probably be more important to them on their pathway to success than what it would be for Mayo.

For that reason, I expect Galway to be crowned League champions this Sunday.