Not finishing Leagues could hamper Armagh progress, says Jemar Hall
NOT finishing off the National Football Leagues would deny Armagh experience of playing at the top level and the chance to make progress towards Championship success, says Jemar Hall.
The Orchardmen are one of several counties with an obvious vested interest in seeing the final two games of the League played. After five rounds of fixtures in Division Two, Kieran McGeeney's men were top of the table and looking set to clinch a place in the top flight next season.
However, the Covid-19 lockdown meant a hasty suspension of GAA activity and now, with inter-county action due to return on October 17, the League issues may be left unfinished.
“We want to get up Division One and play against the best teams because that's the only way you do progress in Championship terms,” said Forkhill clubman Hall.
“From our point of view, the League should be finished and even if you look at the likes of Cork there, I would doubt that they want to be stuck down in Division Three after having such a good season.
“There are only two games left to play, so I feel the League should be finished and it would only take six or seven days. It wouldn't take much effort to get it done – get it out of the road first and then go ahead to the straight knockout Championship.”
A favourite with the fans for his unselfish attitude and tireless workrate, Hall's role in the Armagh side has been to get up and down the field, set up moves, tackle, win breaking ball, contribute scores and generally be in the thick of things.
“I like playing that role, I've got a lot of joy playing it and I've nailed down a starting place,” he said.
“It wouldn't be natural position, that would be centre half-forward or corner-forward, but I've adopted that role and it suits me at county level because you get more space, you get more touches of the ball and it's probably easier to get involved with the play and link the play.”
Armagh fell short of getting to the Ulster final last year when they lost a semi-final replay against Cavan. But they have impressed in the Qualifiers and Hall is confident that the Orchardmen can make the Championship breakthrough that has eluded them since their last Ulster title in 2008.
“We are finding form, over the last couple of years we have built a good bond and it has come from the management,” explained the 26-year-old personal trainer.
“They have helped us build that culture and shown us what it takes to play at a high level and what we need to do to get there. It has come from them and then us players have bought into it more and our form has reflected that.
“Everybody is pulling in the same direction and the players that have come through in the last couple of years – Rian and Oisin O'Neill, Jarly Og (Burns) and the other young boys – are pushing it on as well, so it's looking positive now.
“We want to push on and win the Ulster Championship. That's what you play the game for – to win trophies – and if we can reach that milestone we can push on again to the Super 8s. That's where we feel we should be playing and we know we're capable of playing there.”
The sports science graduate recently launched H&H Performance with Armagh team-mate Blaine Hughes, who is taking a strength and conditioning degree course at Setanta College.
“We want to help athletes and the general public to develop,” he explained.
“When I was younger you didn't have people to guide you to tell you what to do – you just went to the gym and lifted whatever weights were there – so we are putting all our knowledge together to help guide people in a better direction.”