Wednesday 21 February 2018

McGeeney takes aim at ex-players: 'They weren't just as hot as they remember'

McGeeney takes aim at unnamed ex-players and reckons Dubs will miss Rory O'Carroll before summer is out

Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney
Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Harry Redknapp is in town and so is a man who is still known to some simply as 'God' in Robbie Fowler. The recently retired Luke Fitzgerald is there too but the media interest in Kieran McGeeney is, at least, on a par with the rest.

It's hard to imagine another manager of a mid-ranked side attracting such attention, particularly one that has just suffered the ignominy of something that should be impossible under the current championship structure when losing three championship games in a single season.

Andy Mallon. Picture: Oliver McVeigh / Sportsfile
Andy Mallon. Picture: Oliver McVeigh / Sportsfile

But such focus has long been the way with McGeeney and over the following half hour with the assembled media he'll cover a multitude of topics. Only the PR man calling a halt to things stops McGeeney answering the questions he's been asked.

There's only one place to start. There wasn't much cause for optimism in Armagh's season. Even a rule book reprieve did them no favours in the championship but it was the relegation to Division 3 that grates the most.

"The hardest thing this year was losing our divisional status," he said at the Setanta sports' rebrand as Eir sports.

"We took a few chances at the start of the year playing with a lot of young players, we left a lot of the older players out at the beginning of the league to give them a bit of a break and the Crossmaglen boys were gone too.

"Then when we went to take them back in they had a lot of injuries so it backfired a wee bit. We finished off the league fairly well - one more win and we would have been pushing for promotion rather than relegation and that was probably the most disappointing part of it.

"We still seem to struggle to convert our scoring chances - I think when it's taken in perspective we're playing as well as the teams we're playing against but their efficiency is far greater than ours. It shouldn't be because I think we have quality forwards as well.

"From my point of view, I have to look at some of the stuff I'm doing and I'm doing wrong to make that conversion rate better."

There's no obvious light at the end of the tunnel either. Kevin Dyas' future as an inter-county footballer is in doubt with injury. Jamie Clarke's situation remains unchanged while work will likely keep Caolan Rafferty out of the country. Other more senior men like the injury-plagued Kieran McKeever and Andy Mallon will have a decision to make on whether they'll return for another season. It all means there's plenty to find before Armagh can expect to extend their summers beyond July again.

When you put in a season like Armagh's, the brickbats will always rain down but McGeeney probably attracted more than his fair share this summer with Joe Brolly suggesting at one stage that he "hadn't a clue" when it came to tactics.

McGeeney didn't name names, but suggested that some ex-players view their own careers through rose-tinted lenses.

"I find it more with the ex-footballers. I would have loved to be around for those games, I must have missed them because when they were playing it must have been fantastic football.


"The way they talk it was all kick-passing and they were brave and courageous and the decision-making was spot on and they never made any mistakes. I must have missed that those games that those boys played in.

"I find it interesting to hear fellas talking about some of the games they played in and then saying, 'Oh no forward scored from play there' they seem to forget that we played against them and they weren't just as hot as they remember they were. And our scores weren't that high.

"Sometimes it mightn't do any harm if some of our panellists and ex footballers who are in the press now maybe just take out the video recorder, shove it in and took a look at themselves. We weren't as good as we remember."

For McGeeney, the GAA's winners and losers will remain largely as it always has been. Every so often a team will break through their glass ceiling but by and large the teams that have won so far in the history of the GAA will continue to win.

"History has proven that very few teams dominate for too long. I don't know whether it's the way the GAA is structured. Going back to Kerry, or even the current Dublin team, while they're a fantastic team, a fantastic unit, their big push this year is to win back to back.

"It's not as dominated as people would think. Outside of that you're going to have Galway/Mayo, you're going to have Cork/Kerry, you're going to have Dublin plus AN Other and Ulster is a sort of mixed bag.

"I don't think that will change in the near future because it hasn't changed in the 125 years yet. Every so often a team comes through but whether one or those six or seven teams will continue to dominate over the six or seven, I can't see it. I just think it comes in cycles."

Finance is a part of it, he agrees but insists it's unfair to suggest Dublin are on top of the pile simply because they can sign bigger and more cheques than anyone else.

"It is a huge advantage but you have to be careful not to say that it's the only thing because there is a lot of other things.

"I think you're doing the players and their commitment a disservice by just saying it's that. It's nice to go to Carton House the weekend before a game and have three days looking at videos in comfort and doing that sort of stuff but the other side of it is that Jim (Gavin) has managed them so that they give up those three days.

"It's one thing to have the money and the backing and the resources but it's another to have a group of fellas who are willing to buy into commitment and to sacrifice things in their life to do that."

McGeeney expects Dublin to be given a couple of stern examinations before they get to put back-to-back All-Ireland titles together.

"I do think they will miss Rory O'Carroll yet, before summer is out. And Jack (McCaffrey) too.

"Dublin are class, there is no getting away from it, but they are that way because they have committed to it," he adds. "I know when I was in Dublin, playing club football, they weren't as committed as they should have been. I bet that will end up in a headline somewhere!

"I take my hat off to them, a committed bunch. Good too, but their commitment to the cause is class."

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