Armagh 8-13 Leitrim 0-10
Leitrim joint manager George Dugdale again defended the dropping of four of their panellists for failure to comply with team rules on socialising, saying their absence had nothing to do with their Connacht SFC defeat by London or Saturday’s heavy loss to Armagh.
Wayne McKeon, Tomas Beirne, Shane Moran and Conor Beirne were all axed from the Leitrim squad five weeks before their championship opener against New York, but Dugdale laid the blame of their poor campaign on their debilitating injury problems.
Reports leading up to Saturday’s game suggested just 16 players were able to train, with leading light Emlyn Mulligan, centre-back Enda Williams, Paddy Williams and Alan Wynne among those to miss out. And despite their crisis, Dugdale and Barney Breen have no regrets about their decision to come down hard on ill-discipline in the camp.
“As is said before, there were no winners in that situation but I can categorically say that not for one second have Barney or I have had any hesitation over that decision.
“To be a county footballer you have to adhere to standards as a group and anyone who is not prepared to do that hasn’t got the commitment to be a county footballer.
“There is commitment on and off the field and despite the devastating results them boys in there are looking to raise standards — that was not reflected in the result today — but you have to raise standards and say enough is enough.
“Everyone has to be committed 100% and I would make no apology for that, it is my philosophy.
“Myself and Barney had no hesitation for any minute, there are no winners in this but the boys were excluded, they excluded themselves but to me they are not the reasons we didn’t beat London. The reasons we didn’t beat London was the injury toll,” said Dugdale, who played with Leitrim in 1994, when they last won the Connacht title.
Much of the attention inside the county will now turn to the future. Even before the Armagh game, faceless commentators online had signed Breen and Dugdale’s exit papers. However, Dugdale refused to comment on their future and said he was still unsure if he would continue in the job.
“Our two-year term is up so it is not in our hands at this stage. I hadn’t reflected on anything other the match, so I have to go home and think about it but it is not in our hands, it is up to the county board.
“I’m not going to comment one way or the other because it is just too close to a devastating result. There are a lot of people to consider here, a wife and family, whether there is actually a job there … a lot of permutations,” he said.
Leitrim’s fate was sealed with their inability to silence Armagh’s impressive forward line. Three goals from Eugene McVerry, two from Jamie Clarke and another from Tony Kernan gave the Armagh full-forward line a tally of 6-8.
Kevin Dyas and Mark Shields completed the scoring for Paul Grimley’s men, and the former Kildare assistant manager, said he hopes to face stronger opponents in the next round on the back of two easier outings against Wicklow and Leitrim.
“Yes, absolutely, it has been good the way it has worked out so far but with due respect to everybody, we want a really big team to play now.
“I knew at half-time against Cavan that the tactics needed tinkering but the learning curve was when you were training for something you see it through and you don’t be looking for a way out.
“But I have put my hands up and said I refused to change the tactics and people can criticise me for doing that but that was my call and for as long as I am here I will always do what I think is the right thing for the team,” said Grimley.
After such a heavy defeat it is hard to see where Leitrim go from here, but after shaking off their Ulster championship disappointment, Armagh will prove a difficult draw in round 3.
Scorers for Leitrim: K Conlon (0-8, 7fs), R Cox (1f), D Sweeney (0-1 each).
Scorers for Armagh: E McVerry (3-0), J Clarke (2-3), T Kernan (1-5, 3fs, 1 45), A Kernan (0-4fs), K Dyas, M Shields (1-0 each), S Harold (0-1).
Subs for Leitrim: R Gallagher for McGowan (6), R Cox for Croal (h-t), C Clarke for Beck (45), G Reynolds for McMorrow (56).
Subs for Armagh: S Campbell for E Rafferty (27), C O’Hanlon for McVerry (48), F Moriarty for Shields (53), A Forker for C Rafferty (56), S Forker for Clarke (63).
ARMAGH: P McEvoy; J Morgan, B Donaghy, P McKeown; A Kernan, C McKeever (capt), M Shields; J Lavery, S Harold; C Rafferty, K Dyas, E Rafferty; J Clarke, T Kernan, E McVerry.
Leitrim: C McCrann (capt); F McMorrow, C Egan, D Beck; S McWeeney, G Reynolds, B Prior; D Sweeney, B Brennan; P McGowan, J Glancy, P Brennan; K Conlon, R Lowe, A Croal.
Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford).
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