I would love to play for Armagh says McAllister

LINFIELD'S bang on form striker Mark McAllister has told the 'MAIL' that, at some stage in the future, he would love to play for Armagh and for his club, Tír na n"g in Portadown.

Tuesday, 12th October 2010, 2:18 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th October 2010, 11:03 pm

With Paddy O’Rourke currently putting in place a new squad with the start of the 2011 season in mind, McAllister would have been seen as a huge asset considering that the Armagh attack, particularly the half-forward unit, has come in for criticism this past number of seasons.

The Portadown man, who scored last Saturday for the Belfast team and who plays up front alongside Peter Thompson, was seen as the missing link when the county’s Under 21 side contested the Ulster Final in 2008, going under by just a point to Down.

During that particular campaign, approaches were made to Linfield boss David Jeffrey, surrounding the availability of the player by Lurgan man John Byrne who was a part of Brian McAlinden’s management team at the time.

The Linfield manager, however, was keen to protect the player he saw as an asset considering, at the time, a possible move to Glasgow Celtic was on the cards.

The thinking coming out of the Armagh camp at the time was that, had McAllister been available, Armagh would have won the Ulster title. As it transpired, McAllister turned down a move to Scotland, suggesting that he had taken cold-feet and also stressing that he wanted to be playing first team football week in and week out, a scenario which would not have been guaranteed at Parkhead.

Down boss James McCartan found himself in a similar position during the period when Martin Clarke was lining out for Collingwood in the Australian Football League, but when Clarke returned he proved to be the catalyst in Down’s push towards an All-Ireland Final.

McAllister would be a huge asset to the Armagh team, but according to Linfield manager David Jeffrey, the front-man will be remaining at Windsor Park, at least until the end of his contract. He told the 'MAIL': “To be honest, this can all be viewed in black and white. Mark is playing particularly well for us at the moment and although it took a while for him to settle in, I can easily understand why you would be enquiring about his future as a Gaelic footballer”.

He continued: “Any Gaelic manager would want him on their team, he’s as strong as an ox, has the skill and pace to go with it and has great feet but Mark is worth too much to us at this stage”, he stressed.

The Portadown man signed a three-and-a-half-year deal with Linfield back in 2009 but, according to David Jeffrey, Mark’s terms and conditions are different those which apply to Glentoran player Shane McCabe.

“As far as I would be aware,” said David, “When the Irish League season ends, Shane McCabe is free to join the Fermanagh team during their Ulster campaign, but at Linfield we pay Mark McAllister twelve months of the year under his contract.”

He continued: “I have no doubt that Mark would succeed at the highest level in Gaelic Football but we payed a lot of money for the player and he is beginning to reward our faith in him,” he stressed.

It was hoped that McAllister might be allowed to play in next month’s Town and Country cup charity game, which is to take place in the newly refurbished St. Paul’s ground in Lurgan, and although David Jeffrey is always more than helpful in supporting charities he says that, on this occasion, McAllister’s terms and conditions will rule out his participation.

McAllister told the 'MAIL': “Linfield are a great club and I am enjoying my time there but, to be honest, I miss playing Gaelic Football. I’ve only been involved in a handful of games for the club since I first joined Dungannon Swifts and, if I was allowed to, I would certainly play Gaelic Football.

“But for the moment it’s all about striking up consistent form for Linfield. If I was playing Gaelic Football it would keep me in the house on Saturday nights, which would be no bad thing," joked the Portadown man who was highly rated during his underage years with Tr na ng.

Meanwhile, some North Armagh fans have been left feeling disappointed at the news that Paddy O’Rourke has no intentions of replacing Justin McNulty who is leaving the Armagh backroom staff to begin his new managerial role with Laois.

This scenario was viewed by many as an opportunity for O’Rourke to introduce an assistant from the north of the county to work alongside himself and Donal Murtagh. With trainer Mike McGurn coming primarily from a rugby background and both O’Rourke and Murtagh being seen as out-and-out defenders during their playing careers, many fans would see the need for a forwards coach of the calibre of Diarmaid Marsden as a necessity to bring the team to a new level.

The Athletic Grounds in Armagh will host the County’s opening NFL game against Dublin in February and the visit of Down for the USFC opener in 2011.