Armagh's Jemar Hall: We need to hit the ground running
ARMAGH’S Jemar Hall insists his side need to hit the ground running if they are to retain divisional status.
The Orchard side's last game in Allianz League Division One was against Donegal on Easter Sunday in 2012.
It has been a long battle to get back to the top flight and with the shortened preparation time the Forkhill talisman says it’s imperative they make their time count.
Armagh begin their new-look Allianz League Division One North campaign against Monaghan in Enniskillen’s Brewster Park on Sunday, May 16 (3pm).
“It is going to be much harder because we have less time with the team training, we only have four weeks to prepare whereas in a normal pre-season you could have 10 or 12 weeks,” Hall said.
“And we have no real pre-season competition such as the Dr McKenna Cup, which gives us more opportunity to get good game-time behind us.
“Now all we have is four weeks training and then we are straight into national league and that is our first year up there and we have only three or four games. So, it we have got to hit the ground running straight away.
“There is no time for messing about, it is almost pre-season before the Championship and we don’t know how many games there will be, so we just have to win as many as we can if we want to have a good season.”
The Monaghan clash is followed by Saturday evening Division One North games in the Athletic Grounds against Tyrone on May 22, (7pm) and Donegal on May 29, (7.30pm).
A great season for Armagh would be to stay in Division One this season with the hope of returning to the usual league format in 2022 and a place in the Ulster Championship final.
Armagh begin their ulster championship campaign against Antrim on Sunday, July 4, at 3.30pm and Hall, who is going into his sixth season in the orange jersey feels his side should be targetting the Ulster final on August 1.
“I don’t see why not. Every year you aspire to win something you are not just aiming to show up and not push yourself,” said Hall.
“We want to be pressing ahead and reaching the Ulster final.
''Two years ago, we got to the semi-final against Cavan and then last year we played Donegal and we didn’t do ourselves justice.
''I think we need to push on now for this team because we have made good progress and we just have got to get into a final and when we get there, then hopefully we would win the game.”
Former captain Ciaran McKeever and All-Ireland winning Kerry star Kieran Donaghy have joined Kieran McGeeney’s management team, while the enthusiastic Jim McCorry has left the Orchard set-up.
Hall has played alongside McKeever and says he is a natural leader, and he has been impressed with Donaghy and feels both men will bring something new to the set-up.
While it will be a blow to Armagh if Jamie Clarke doesn’t make another comeback, the return of players such as Jack Grugan, Ross McQuillan and Ciaran O’Hanlon gives manager Kieran McGeeney plenty of options in a position the Forkhill man is prepared to fight for.
While last season Hall was delighted to win the Junior Club Championship with his beloved Forkhill, he also faced some lows, injuries kept him out of the county starting line-up ... and he then caught Covid.
Fortunately he is feeling no long-term after affects.
He and county team-mate Blaine Hughes have opened a new gym, called H&H gym in Camlough, and both players are in great shape.
“Last year I got injured twice, I hurt my hamstring and I hurt my ankle, so I was only available for four or five games,” Hall said.
“Then I got coronavirus. It took me two weeks to get my energy levels back, you just felt tired all the time, but I was glad it went away, and I am not feeling any after affects and raring to go.”