Why Kieran McGeeney needs to consider recalling Jamie Clarke to Armagh
Don’t call it a comeback.
Jamie Clarke was once the first name on the Armagh team sheet, but after a couple of years outside of the inter-county squad, it’s time that Kieran McGeeney should consider recalling him.
Clarke has just captained Crossmaglen Rangers to the Armagh county championship, and will now lead them into Ulster as they prepare to face the winners in Tyrone.
The former Armagh star first broke onto the inter-county scene back in 2010, and his dominant performance against Donegal in that year’s Ulster championship was one of the true great individual performances, and a sign for things to come.
However, unlike with his club, Clarke’s rise coincided with Armagh’s decline, as their Golden Generation came to end, and a period of disappointment followed, with the county being relegated all the way to Division Three.
McGeeney eventually took over, and although the transition to becoming a top team again took a few years, it was undoubtedly achieved as they regularly feature in big games in Croke Park, and have aspirations of winning the biggest trophies.
For one reason or another the management decided not to call Clarke up to the squad in the past two years despite the fact that he has been home from his travels, and it’s time they should reconsider that position for a number of reasons.
Clarke has won every trophy you can win in the club game, and has played at the highest level from a remarkably young age, meaning that he has accumulated a lot of valuable experience in his time.
With a relatively young Armagh team currently competing for trophies, Clarke could bring a lot of wisdom, value, and leadership to the dressing room.
Replacing key players
Jarleth Og Burns has opted out of the panel for the coming season, despite being one of the main players in the team, so he will be a massive miss on the pitch and in training.
Then players like Ethan Rafferty who also plays a key role in the squad, has picked up a serious injury and it is unsure when he will return to action, so with big gaps left on the panel, the flying forward could be the main to fill those voids.
The Conor McManus effect
When you look at Monaghan this year, and how Vinny Corey utilised Conor McManus, it played a huge part in the team reaching the All-Ireland semi-finals, beating Armagh in the process.
The seasoned shooter would often be sprung from the bench and not only would his teammates get a boost from this, the opposition would suddenly half to change tact, and direct their attention to nullifying his influence.
Clarke could bring a similar quality if he wasn’t going to be a main starter, and offers something different up front as well with his guile and trickiness.
The words “penalty shoot-out” are enough to make any Armagh fan shudder as they crashed out of the championship last year at the hands of Galway to this format, and then lost both the Ulster final, and All-Ireland quarter final in the same fashion.
During the county final last Sunday Clarke stepped up to take a penalty in the game and was coolness personified as he struck the ball home with the sort of confidence and authority that only a real sharp shooter can posses.
When you have been burned as many times as Armagh has at the hands of penalties, then adding an established spot-kicker like the Crossmaglen skipper into the panel can only be a good thing.