Armagh forward Jamie Clarke admits part of him is glad Michael Quinlivan and Tippperary crashed their Allianz League promotion party.
Armagh were all set to claim one of the promotion positions in Division 3 when Quinlivan displayed his uncanny knack once again for scoring late goals in the Round 7 tie, securing promotion for Tipp instead.
Clarke included it alongside the games against Laois and Sligo as instances where the Orchard County had victory within their grasp yet let it slip. In all, Armagh took just one point from a possible six in those games having led in all three. Their failure to return to Division 2 has placed a cloud over their preparations for Sunday week’s Ulster showdown with Down while boss Kieran McGeeney is also serving a high profile 12-week ban.
Clarke shrugged about the suspension though he said their league failings can be viewed as a positive as they have prompted the team to seriously address problems.
“Obviously the Tipperary game itself, and not getting promoted to Division 2, was a big setback for us in terms of where we want to go but in terms of the camp itself there hasn’t been much of a dip in mood,” said Clarke.
“If you look at the first two games, I think we lost a six-point lead both days against Laois and Sligo. We lost one of them by a point, the Laois game, and we also lost to Tipp by a point but when you look back on it, ultimately there wasn’t that much wrong.
“I think in a way I’m glad Tipperary happened to us because we realised what we need to work on. We have lost leads on three of those occasions and it’s something we have really been forced to look at, closing out games moving forward.”
Whilst McGeeney will be banned from sideline duties for the Down game on June 4, Clarke confirmed he will definitely be available in what is a considerable boost
The Crossmaglen attacker rolled his ankle in training earlier this month and the rumour mill went into overdrive when he was seen wearing a protective boot.
“I had a bit of a setback there a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “I went over on my ankle during a session, so I was out for a couple of weeks. I was in the moon boot. It was more or less precautionary but I’m back at it and we’re in good shape.”
Clarke is poised to make his Championship return after a two-year break having spent much of last year in the US. He said he left for various reasons, partly to indulge his wanderlust and played down talk that he had grown disillusioned with tight-marking Ulster defences.
“I think 2012 was the real change in the game in that respect but I don’t think it affected me going away, I think that’s what I was always going to do anyway,” he said. “It definitely took a little bit of the enjoyment out of it. It’s something I wouldn’t complain about too much because life is about challenges and I think the game is evolving in that way and I think it’s only beneficial for the game that players are getting smarter.
“It’s just become more and more...I suppose I would use the word professional. I think it’s something I admire, that the game is moving forward and I am glad that it’s happening to be honest.”
Clarke had a stint playing soccer in New York and was also offered the chance to play for the Exiles in the Connacht Championship against Roscommon, a game that ended in defeat for the hosts. Asked if he was close to teaming up with them, Clarke shook his head.
“Not at all, no. They were on to me a couple of times about it but I knew I was coming back to play for Armagh. In terms of that level of football, competing in the Championship, I don’t think I would have been interested. Playing Gaelic out there was just a bit of fun.”
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