Wednesday 20 March 2019

Kieran McGeeney: Donegal won't let us away with bad habits

‘You don’t want to stick your chin out too much’ against Donegal admits Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney
‘You don’t want to stick your chin out too much’ against Donegal admits Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Kieran McGeeney fears his team may have picked up too many habits during their brief spell in Division 3 last spring.

Armagh, who were crowned Division 3 champions in April, meet a Donegal team with a game already under their belt and their manager admits there is anxiety over taking their first championship "punch".

"The biggest challenge for us is that we are stepping from Division 3 into Division 1," he said.

"We played a challenge game against Cork recently. I know people will think this is a cliché, but the mistakes you have got away with (in Division 3) you will not get away with against Donegal - the sloppy passes, giving someone a purple patch and trying to soak it up - those kind of things.


"You do that to teams who play at a different level of intensity and they can put five or six points up in a split second. You do that against Donegal, you are going to find it hard to claw that back," he warned.

"Donegal already have a game behind them. We know that we are capable of playing well. But they can probably compete without going to the same level because of their history and belief."

Armagh will be among the last six teams to enter the championship - Kerry, Mayo, Meath, Wicklow and Wexford have all to play their first games - and wait has suited them, according to McGeeney, because of the injuries they have had.

But the fear of "taking that first punch", as he puts it, is always there.

"In any competitive arena there is that anxiety of taking the first punch but you don't want to be sticking your chin out too much with a team like Donegal or the first punch could kill you."

McGeeney, taking charge of Armagh in a championship match for the first time, doesn't see the Athletic Grounds as an advantage to his team either.

"Clones and Croke Park probably suits our style of football more. The tight pitch might suit Donegal's style more. We played Donegal in the Athletic Grounds in the league last year where you could definitely see it suited them. It's a tight pitch and I do think it plays tighter because the wall is close to it," he suggested.

"I do like the fact that it's going to be a full house, that there's going to be a buzz about it. Because it's a first round game you mightn't get that big of a crowd elsewhere, but it will fill the Athletic Grounds.

"I don't think it will give us any advantage as in how the game will progress. I think you will see as much green and yellow as you'll see orange and white."

Are Armagh building a team for the future with Clones and Croke Park in mind? "You'd like to be able to think that, that's I suppose where you are getting to," he admitted. "We wouldn't look at it that way.

"I think it's better, the more space you have the harder it is to close teams down and if you are looking for more attack-orientated football, obviously the more space you have the better it is."


McGeeney has been an ardent defender of modern Gaelic football, regularly raising the issue of the quality of games in the past including his own era by comparison to today's game.

He reiterates the need for a more constructive and positive view of the way the game is being played.

"We tend to be very negative about our game. Micko (Dwyer) is great. He's infectious.

"After a game he'd come out and say, 'Wasn't it great' whereas now we come out and say, 'Jaysus, I'd have been better at home watching 'EastEnders' than that'. Next thing everybody joins in and it's like a mass hysteria.

"There are people who are doing it for headlines and it's not their career. Even the way they are advertised - 'I call it as it is' - when the opposite is true. They never call it as it is. Most columnists sensationalise the game and it's always past players."

Irish Independent

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