Armagh want to taste Super 8s experience: Jim McCorry
ASSISTANT manager Jim McCorry says Armagh are targeting a place in this season’s All-Ireland Super 8s and believes the Orchard squad is better equipped than last season.
While Jamie Clarke and Stefan ‘Soupy’ Campbell’s high-profile returns will undoubtedly improve Armagh’s forward line, it’s the range of options manager Kieran McGeeney will potentially have in 2019.
Crossmaglen’s Rian and Oisin O’Neill have also joined the panel alongside club-mate James Morgan.
“Morgan is a fantastic defender to come back in,” said McCorry.
“I’m very impressed with him and Paul Hughes [injured for most of last season] is another strong corner-back or attacking half-back. A lot has been written about how strong the forwards are, when you take the likes of Clarke and Campbell coming back… But there is a lot more range of cover.
“It makes a massive difference to us. Not only do we have quality players coming back, we have them in all positions.”
McGeeney is entering his fifth year in charge of his native county, with McCorry into just his second. During Geezer’s reign, Armagh have struggled on the provincial stage but have reserved their best performances for the All-Ireland Qualifiers.
“Everybody loves the immediate hit of coming in and winning a cup – it’s about progress over a period of time and I think that’s evident now when Kieran has got his full deck of cards.
“Last year Roscommon beat us in the last Qualifier round and went into the Super 8s and lost their three games [against Tyrone, Donegal and Roscommon].
“And commentators have said: ‘If we’d gone through, we would have suffered the same.’ We don’t know on that.
“We had a lot of stronger players missing last year, so we probably wouldn’t have had put up a proper test for ourselves. This year we are targeting the Super 8s… If we can get a fairly injury-free run I think we could compete well in the Super 8s.
“That’s the sharp edge of Gaelic football where you can really assess where you’re at and assess if you’re Championship material moving forward to challenge the Dublins, the Mayos and the Kerrys, which is what we want to do.
Armagh will face neighbours Tyrone in tomorrow’s Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup final at the Athletic Grounds after beating Monaghan and Donegal along the way before travelling to Kildare next week to open up their NFL Division Two account.
McCorry added: “Kieran has said repeatedly to the players: you want to play against the best to improve, so this is a really another big test. Donegal and Monaghan were big tests and Tyrone is another step up again before we play Kildare, which is really the whole objective.”
McCorry recognises that Dublin will take some stopping in winning five All-Irelands in a row but feels the gap to Mayo, Kerry and Tyrone is not as wide as what some people might think.
“When you look at the hierarchy of teams – Dublin is the pinnacle and the evidence is there that suggests they’re going to be the top team this year again and after that you have Mayo, Kerry and Tyrone. That’s the cream of what’s there at the moment.
“The gaps between them are narrowing, I think, and not only are they narrowing there is an increased chasing pack. You can see the strength in depth Donegal have – 6ft 4in, 6ft 5in players who can kick off both feet and are very athletic...
“And you take Armagh with players back… so the chasing pack is getting bigger and I feel the gap is narrowing."