Sunday 22 September 2019

Comment: Messrs McGeeney, Harte and Rochford know the circuitous route to Croke Park and can take it again

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney
Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney

Frank Roche

KIERAN McGEENEY has never been one to shy away from responsibility for his team’s failings.

So it was in Enniskillen last Saturday.

“It’s my job to get them ready and, if they’re not ready, the buck stops with me,” the Armagh boss accepted.

Sceptics will doubtless counter that ‘Geezer’ has enjoyed plenty of practice, far more than is granted to some other less luminous (Stephen Wallace?) managers.

After all, this was his fourth consecutive year to fall at the first Ulster SFC fence - and not to a heavyweight either, apart from Donegal who won by nine points in 2015. This was followed by losses to Cavan (eight points), Down (two) and Fermanagh (five last weekend).

Likewise, McGeeney’s eventful six years in charge of Kildare delivered no provincial silverware and included a couple of first-day-out humiliations, to Wicklow in 2008 and Louth in 2010.

And yet ... this iconic player-turned-struggling early-summer boss keeps delivering results through the back door.

Only once with Kildare, in his swansong season, did he fail to reach the last-eight.

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They fell at the quarter-final stage in 2008, ’09, ’11 and ’12 ... the one that really got away was 2010 when, as one of four qualifier teams to make the semi-finals, they came within the width of a crossbar of beating Down at the death.

As for Armagh, don’t forget ‘Geezer’ masterminded a surprise ambush of his former Lilywhite comrades to reach last year’s quarter-final stage.

Maybe his case study proves that some managers simply are better equipped for the more circuitous road to Croke Park.

Think of Mickey Harte, who won his second and third All-Irelands (in 2005 and ’08) via the scenic route.

Or Stephen Rochford, whose down-but-not-out Mayo played nine matches in 2016 and ten matches last summer to underline their credentials as the second-best team in Ireland, after Dublin.

Harte and Rochford have both been feeling the heat this month, no more than McGeeney.

Maybe we shouldn’t write them all off just yet.

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