McDonnell defends ‘disrespected’ Armagh

Assistant manager breaks media ban to confirm media ban continues

Armagh and Tyrone players confront each other en masse  early in the All-Ireland SFC   Qualifier Series Round 2B game at Healy Park in Tyrone. Photograph: Andrew Paton/Inpho/Presseye

Armagh and Tyrone players confront each other en masse early in the All-Ireland SFC Qualifier Series Round 2B game at Healy Park in Tyrone. Photograph: Andrew Paton/Inpho/Presseye

Fri, Aug 1, 2014, 01:00

The strangely selective Armagh media ban has once again been temporarily broken, this time to allow assistant manager Peter McDonnell to claim the team had been “disrespected and dismissed” – and not just this year.

McDonnell has also claimed head of tomorrow’s fourth round football qualifier against Meath the county’s media ban remains for as long as they stay in the championship.

The reasoning for all this now seems to extend beyond the media coverage of their involvement in the pre-match parade brawl which marred their Ulster quarter-final win over Cavan on June 8th.

No Armagh player has been allowed to speak to the media since, including official pre-game publicity for tomorrow evening’s game in Croke Park; Armagh forward Kevin Dyas did attend a pre-match media event in Croke Park earlier this week, posing for photographs, before promptly leaving without saying a word.

‘Inaccurate reporting’

McDonnell, however, did give an interview yesterday to Gaelic Life, Ulster’s dedicated weekly GAA newspaper, claiming inaccurate reporting was the main reason for the media ban.

“We would strongly feel that we have been disrespected and dismissed and portrayed inaccurately,” says McDonnell, who managed Armagh for two seasons, 2008-09, and came back under manager Paul Grimley.

“A false impression is created and sought to be created – and not just during this year, but during previous years. And to that end, until resolution is achieved there will be a coolness and, indeed, an absolute and total failure to communicate with certain elements of the media”, he said in the interview

McDonnell is known to have an influential role within the Armagh management, along with former captain Kieran McGeeney, who also came on board this year to work with Grimley.

And now, it seems, they’re all intent on keeping the players silent even if they make the All-Ireland quarter-finals on Saturday week.

“People would need to retrace their steps very accurately”, added McDonnell. “Respect and good manners are not difficult qualities to carry”.

Whether this is a reference to comments related to the pre-match parade brawl is unclear, although earlier this week, GAA president Liam O’Neill vehemently denied Grimley’s inference that he (O’Neill) and director general Páraic Duffy pressed the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) to suspend players from Armagh and Cavan.

Following the incident, three Armagh players – Brendan Donaghy, Kieran Toner and Andy Mallon – received one game bans. Two Cavan players – Martin Dunne and Feargal Flanagan – were also sanctioned and both county boards were fined €5,000.

Cavan accepted the punishment, while Armagh lost both their hearing and appeal.

In the meantime, Grimley also broke his silence back on July 1st in a brief interview with the Newry Democrat:

“The media did, in my opinion, influence Liam O’Neill and Páraic Duffy and the CCCC and put pressure on them, and they reacted as they normally do. We were standing in an orderly fashion behind the band and we were attacked.”

‘Easy target’

Grimley was also quoted as saying O’Neill thought Armagh were an “easy target”.

This accusation was met with bemusement by O’Neill, who said: “He [Grimley]made an accusation, I’m not sure why he did. I don’t mind putting on record that I have never spoken to the CCCC on any discipline matter since I became president, nor have I have commented to anybody in officialdom on the performance of referees.

“I made the decision, when I became president, that we appoint people to do those jobs. I do my job and they do theirs. It would be wrong of either Páraic or I to do that, and it just doesn’t arise.”

Armagh later exited the Ulster championship in a semi-final replay against Monaghan, after which Grimley told this reporter:

“I have nothing to say, even if I wanted to.”

They’ve since beaten Tyrone and Roscommon in the qualifiers to set up tomorrow evening’s showdown against Meath (5pm), the first of the double-bill of fourth round qualifiers in Croke Park.

Armagh have only once played Meath in the championship before, in the 1999 All-Ireland semi-final, when Meath won by 0-15 to 2-5.

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