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McKeever bids to turn new home into fortress

ARMAGH centre-back Ciaran McKeever expects to return to action for the official opening of the new Athletics Ground when Dublin come to visit for their February 5 NFL clash, and the Cullyhanna man wants to make the venue a "fortress".

The Orchard men have most often used Crossmaglen as their base for league matches and Clones for championship games for over a decade, but they'll play a full campaign in Armagh city this year.

"What is it, 15 years or so? We played a couple of league matches there two years ago but on a constant basis we have to make this a fortress for Armagh. All the players are looking forward to it and the facilities are excellent."

The Armagh County Board hope to complete the sale of the naming rights to their £4.75m newly refurbished 19,500 capacity venue before the start of this year's Ulster championship.

Armagh owe £1.25m on the impressive redevelopment that includes a 5,600 capacity stand, extended dressing rooms, physiotherapist facilities as well as administration and retail units.

They are hoping to raise funds by selling engraved dedications on each of the new seats for £100 under their 'Seat for Life' scheme. If successful, the scheme could net the county close to £600,000, with a percentage going back to the clubs.

McKeever has so far sat out the McKenna Cup campaign in a bid to clear up "a few knocks and bangs" and over the course of the Christmas break, discovered that a Twitter account had been set up in his name where an impostor passes comment on a range of topics.

"Funnily enough I got introduced to that over Christmas. I said: 'I barely know how to switch on a computer so I doubt that's me'.

"You get people doing silly things like that. If he says anything bad about anybody, well it's not me that's doing it!"

Dublin ended Armagh's championship run last year in Croke Park, but McKeever believes the Orchard County were the architects of their own downfall that day and insists that if they cut out the errors, they can still be in contention come the business end of the summer.

"Dublin put us out last year but, if you look back at that match, it was partly to do with our own faults and mistakes we made in that match," he said. "The critical time in that match was 10 or 15 minutes before half-time when we were 0-6 to 0-2 up and let Dublin back into the game with our stupid mistakes.


"That came back to haunt us. If we can mop up them mistakes and decision making then there is no reason why we can't take Dublin here on Saturday week.

"As I said coming down the road that day on the back of the bus: 'We are after turning Dublin's season around by our own stupid mistakes.'

"We feel as a group of players that we're in that top eight bracket. We have to patch up a few of the mistakes that we made 15 minutes before half-time and again in the second half when we were on top again.

"We did stupid things with the ball; we need to patch them up. If we do there is no reason why we can't be in the latter stages of the championship this year."

Armagh set last year's league on fire in their successful Division 2 campaign but the top flight, according to McKeever, represents a different challenge.

Irish Independent