Tuesday 27 September 2016

Off the Ball: Geezer's Armagh may be down but they are not out

McGeeney inspires as much begrudgery from opponents as loyalty from his teams

Ger Gilroy

Published 24/06/2015 | 02:30

Kieran McGeeney's teams tend to be slow starters in the Championship
Kieran McGeeney's teams tend to be slow starters in the Championship

Anthony Moyles told a story about sharing a room with Kieran McGeeney while with the International Rules team on a training weekend in Toulouse on The Hard Shoulder podcast last week.

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Moyles was clear there was an element of team bonding as well as warm-weather tactical preparation on the trip - Trevor Brennan's pub did alright out of the group.

He awoke one morning, slightly scared by the grunting and panting coming from Geezer's side of the room only to eventually peek out and be relieved that Geezer was busy doing push-ups and sit-ups before breakfast. Already ahead of the day.

Geezer's been talking recently about his interest in martial arts and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Conor McGregor's coach John Kavanagh is constantly quoted about his admiration for McGeeney. He's happy to roll with McGregor in training too. He has no cruciates in his knees.

Dave McIntyre asked him about surviving today in the game as it's played now. Not a hypothetical at-your-peak could you have survived or what would your role be, he was asked, "Today could you play inter-county football for Armagh?"

McGeeney paused and wondered for a moment. The no cruciates was the thing, not age or health or anything else, he was half joking. Only half joking.

Why does Geezer inspire so much interest and yet also so much begrudgery? Pretty much every game that Kildare played under McGeeney was televised in the championship, a new generation of fans born.

Massive numbers travelled to games, respect was restored and new foundations laid.

Kildare reached an All-Ireland semi-final and produced All Star nominations and even some actual All Stars.

By any rational measures his time there was a success but he got kicked out. Last day out his Armagh team were eaten without salt by a Donegal team in full pomp and little pockets of the internet danced in glee about Geezer's defeat.

Kildare fans just nodded and remembered that his teams were wojus starters in the championship almost without fail. It's not how you start that people remember though - it's how you finish.

Armagh will be glad Saturday's game, live on 'Off The Ball', with Wicklow is at home, a chance to cleanse the Donegal experience from the Athletic Grounds.

In the next round of the qualifiers there is no team they'll fear. Playing for their lives. All on the line. How McGeeney likes it.

Irish Independent

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