Sport

Donegal players must deliver now under O'Rourke while Armagh won't worry overly about demotion

Former Donegal manager Paddy Carr, second from left, with selector Paddy Bradley and head coach Aidan O'Rourke - the latter has taken over after Carr's resignation. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Former Donegal manager Paddy Carr, second from left, with selector Paddy Bradley and head coach Aidan O'Rourke - the latter has taken over after Carr's resignation. Picture Margaret McLaughlin Former Donegal manager Paddy Carr, second from left, with selector Paddy Bradley and head coach Aidan O'Rourke - the latter has taken over after Carr's resignation. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

The Donegal situation surrounding Paddy Carr's departure is bizarre to say the least. Clearly, the players were not happy with the set-up and for Carr to leave his post as a consequence of a meeting with senior players is quite the statement.

Carr, it would appear, was effectively left with little choice.

You would then have to give credit where it's due – many managers would hang on, double down, and have to be led kicking and screaming out of the building.

On top of the fall-out over the county's academy and the county board's administration, it appears as if Donegal GAA, as a whole, could do with a spring clean.

Just because you're a volunteer shouldn't absolve you from appraisal or criticism. It always stands that fewer people doing a role effectively is much better than a raft of people collectively not doing the job to the standard expected.

At all levels – under-age, minor or senior – the most important people are the players. Unfortunately, in many cases, it is the administration who consider themselves the most important ones in the room.

One might have naturally assumed that when Carr left the scene, so too would Aidan O'Rourke and Paddy Bradley. Based on what skipper Paddy McBrearty said in these pages on Tuesday, that appears not to be the case.

Had I been in Aidan's position, I certainly would not have been hanging around awaiting for a decision from either the board or the changing room.

Both are fickle places when results are bad and there is a coup d'etat bubbling.

Of course, things were probably not helped last week prior to Carr's resignation when Jim McGuinness stated that he had been open to a return this season in a capacity to be defined by an alternative management vying for the top job.

It is well-publicised that Jim is involved with Down currently, preparing them for an Ulster Championship opener against his beloved home county.

Players at inter-county level just want success – they will do almost anything to get it and the manager

can easily become collateral damage in the process.

I would contend that elite players need pushed and, whether this is a conscious or subconscious 'want', you are not doing a team any favours at that level if they believe you are falling short at any stage of their preparation.

Players want to believe in something much bigger along the road. Paddy Carr perhaps did not meet these fundamental expectations for some.

McGuinness was a master of his own particular management style and always demanded perfection.

They say when you strive for perfection, you'll land on excellence. It could be contended that McGuinness achieved this excellence and their Ulster title haul and All-Ireland triumph under him stand as a monument to this.

The players always know much more about the issues within any squad. We are purely dealing in the speculation game.

I would hazard a guess and suggest that had Michael Murphy still been part of the Donegal squad, the meeting and subsequent resignation of Paddy Carr would arguably not have happened.

Why? Well, players of Murphy's stature 'run' the changing room akin to a manager. Roy Keane carried out this type of role for Alex Ferguson.

Had problems been prevalent or even apparent, Murphy would have had them sorted with Carr and co rather than them being allowed to grow legs and continue to fester.

In this instance, Murphy, a natural-born leader, would have 'allowed' the management team to see the season out and then seek change if indeed required.

At club or county level, rarely would managers see the need to resign mid-competition. However, it is certainly something that's been more prevalent in the last few years.

It seems that players are just becoming more impatient – an example of the shifting sands of power nowadays.

I cannot see a situation in which the current set-up stays the course, however, none of us know of the dynamic between Paddy Carr and Aidan O'Rourke and the rest of the management team and players.

If Donegal need interim managers, I would suggest rocking up at Michael Murphy's front door.

Subject to his body living up to the demands of Championship football, a player-management role is perhaps still feasible.

Karl Lacey could possibly return to coach the team, with more than a few options available to Donegal in selector capacities.

I cannot see how McGuinness can be involved currently given his role in Down this year, so he would have to wait until the season is over should he be interested in a return to his native county.

For some Donegal fans the current batch of players will only redeem themselves with a strong run in the Championship. Their performance against Roscommon did not exactly send a message out that they have a point to prove.

The Mournemen are lying in a wait and had a decent League campaign.

Donegal, meanwhile, have a lot of issues to reconcile before travelling to Newry on April 23.

Unfortunately, most of these issues are off-field and not so easily or quickly fixed.

For now, the best repair job they can manage will be in a few weeks' time in Paírc Esler.

Tyrone survive; Armagh relegated. The Red Hands finished the League campaign strongly.

The Orchardmen had their chances to stay up and, while Monaghan showed incredible character, Armagh can only look at themselves.

Dropping down into the second tier wouldn't mean that we would automatically write off Derry or Dublin's chances later in the Championship, so neither should Armagh be consigned to hopelessness on that front.

They will probably not dwell too long on a competition that is now over for the year.

The one thing you could guarantee under Kieran McGeeney is that very little ever leaked from a squad that was building towards significant silverware.

In nearly all cases of inter-county rumours, 99 per cent of it is nonsense. For instance, who would have guessed that Stephen Cluxton would return to Dublin's squad at the ripe old age of 41?

Not that his age is of any relevance; but the apparent finality of his departure and time in-between is, so that's what makes his return so unbelievable.

Rian O'Neill's injury is very bad timing and Armagh will need and want him back as soon as possible.

If they are going to win anything, O'Neill will be critical to it.

Derry, as expected, will certainly be there or thereabouts this year when the cups are being given

out.

Should they beat Dublin in the Division Two final, how many more statements of intent do they need to make?

Fermanagh and Kieran Donnelly will have been delighted with their season so far.

As a county and as players, the Ernemen deserve huge credit.

While Monaghan got most of the plaudits last weekend, success is relative and it is not lost on true football fans who will recognise Fermanagh's season to date.

The Allianz Football League has demonstrated at least one thing – we enter the most open Championship in years.

This is a huge positive. On any given Sunday you can win or lose and that won't be lost, I am sure, on all teams as we count down the days to the mouthwatering battles of this year's Ulster Championship.