Sport

The mood music needs to change for Kieran McGeeney and Armagh

For whatever reason, Armagh had failed to win an Ulster Championship match under Kieran McGeeney, the latest being a disappointing defeat to Fermanagh

MUSIC has long-established links with sports of all kind. It can be used to great effect to mirror one’s personality, as is the case in boxing bouts.

You might remember the intimidating clanging of chains as Mike Tyson was introduced into the arena for the Michael Spinks fight in 1988.

We sat up for hours waiting on the fight to start, playing cards with my father and great uncle, wee Joe, until the main fight commenced.

Wee Joe was a great man for the game of 25 and he maintained our interest in it by permitting bets of one and two pence at a time.

The exhilaration of that ringwalk music had Spinks cowering in his corner, a fact he acknowledged in post-fight interviews.

It was scheduled to last 12 gruelling rounds, but instead it lasted a mere 91 seconds; several hammer blows to the body and chin akin to being hit by the nib of a digger was enough to secure two knockdowns and, ultimately, the fight.

Nowadays, the internet can offer sport-specific, ready-made compilations for cycling, running or whatever exercise you participate in.

Many team players, such as in Gaelic sports or soccer, create their own specific set of music in their mobile devices to either maintain a calm alert state or to help in the pre-match motivation phase.

On Saturday past, music came to my rescue it would seem. Ten months ago, when Ed Sheeran announced his Divide World Tour, I purchased two tickets to see him perform in Phoenix Park, Dublin.

As it turned out, the date clashed with Armagh’s provincial

quarter-final versus Fermanagh. With divided loyalties, I chose to side with my head rather than my heart and made the journey south.

I met a few Armagh folk at the concert who were asking the same questions as me; ‘how’s the match going?’, ‘any word on who’s playing well?’

It seemed as though we were in an internet black spot, perhaps the only one in the whole of Dublin.

Eventually the result came in – Fermanagh by five.

We looked at each other perplexed as our thoughts were drowned out by the sound of Sheeran singing Bloodstream.

Judging from the highlights and analysis shown on The Sunday Game, and from coverage in the print media and social media, the game was clearly not a classic.

Then came the bloodbath. Once again, players’ motives are being questioned, the manager’s acumen is being zapped and the counties’ travelling supporters are being slated. All this over a game of football.

Sometimes reactions are over the top, moreso with Armagh and Kieran McGeeney than any other county or manager.

I cannot fully defend what I haven’t seen. Yet if supporters were vitriolic, whether borne out of frustration or in reaction to goading, that was wrong and should be condemned outright. it is conduct, though, that is not just the preserve of the Orchard county.

As for players and manager? Players can have bad days. It appears that the pressure of Championship spurs some on and debilitates others.

Armagh have fallen into the latter category in the past four seasons. Is that the reason they were beaten? I would think not.

Losing key forwards in Jamie Clarke and Stefan Campbell, along with rising stars such as Oisin O’Neill, was sure to catch up with the Orchardmen.

Smaller counties can ill-afford to play without their best players and expect to be competitive. Yet both teams demonstrated this year that they are of similar ability.

That merely implies that one is as good, or bad, as the other. It does not imply that both are good teams.

Everyone knows there is a gulf as wide as the Gulf of Mexico between the leading Division One teams and those from Division Three where both Fermanagh and Armagh furrowed this year.

On the other hand, it does not excuse the absence of fighting spirit and pride that should be instilled in the jersey and which was evident throughout the Allianz League.

At its most basic level, supporters travel the length and breadth of Ireland to watch their players give their all. They want to be proud of the players’ efforts and they want to clap him on the back and encourage them to better themselves the next day.

When a supporter leaves a match unable to relate to those players on the field for their apparent lack of effort or application they feel let down.

Good teams can play reasonably well and be beaten. It happened Tyrone. The pressure might be mounting on this Tyrone team, but Mickey Harte’s head is not on a block, just yet.

Kieran McGeeney won’t have slept so well though. As people, particularly Armagh people, register their disgust on social media, just remember for these players and managers to give their best they need to be enjoying the experience, free from the worry of the proverbial gun being pointed at their temple.

The mood music needs to be upbeat and encouraging.

It used to be said that pressure is for tyres, but if pressure gets under your skin it can create havoc with your systems and the journeys around Ireland will have a predetermined outcome.

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