They may have moved up in the world but McDonnell is anxious that his charges should keep their feet firmly on the ground.
“The team is still learning and maturing and the important thing is that the players must keep their focus as we go along. If we do this we can end up in the right place.”
Certainly, Armagh’s learning process will surely have been enhanced following this combative, backs-to-the-wall effort against a Louth side that elicited hitherto latent reserves of character, courage and skill to all but scupper their hosts’ preempted glide into Division Two.
“We would not be happy at all with this performance and the players are very disappointed,” said McDonnell.
“This was a very important match for us and the occas- ion may have impacted on the lads.”
Louth’s grit and commitment sustained their feisty challenge throughout a contest in which the sides were level on no fewer than seven occasions.
A 13th-minute missed penalty by Jamie Clarke, a string of other missed scoring opportunities, and poor decision-making ensured that the hosts made life difficult for themselves even when the visitors lost the services of Dessie Finnegan to a second yellow card in the 47th minute.
But Ciaran O’Hanlon’s three points from midfield and a brace each from Aidan Forker and Clarke cushioned Armagh’s often fragile belief.
The immaculate free-taking of Ryan Burns who landed six points from placed balls allied to the energy of Bevan Duffy and Eoin O’Connor at midfield, the guile of Derek Maguire and the steely resolve of James Stewart in particular kept Louth afloat virtually until the final whistle, points in the 66th and 68th minutes from Forker and O’Hanlon respectively ultimately proving their undoing.
P Morrison; M Shields, C Vernon, J Morgan; C McKeever, F Moriarty, A Mallon; A Findon, C O’Hanlon 0-3; T Kernan 0-1 (f), M McKenna, A Forker 0-2 (1f); J Clarke 0-2, E Rafferty 0-1, A Murnin.
G McParland 0-1 for Murnin (49), E McVerry for Kernan (52), B Donaghy for Moriarty (57), P Carragher for McVerry (66), S Forker for McKenna (67).
N Gallagher; K Toner, P Reilly, P Rath; A Williams, D Flanagan, J Stewart; B Duffy, E O’ Connor; A Reid, D Crilly, D Byrne 0-1; R Burns 0-6 (all frees), C Grimes, D Maguire 0-1.
T Durnin for O’Connor (72).
Ciaran Branagan (Down).