GAA Football

Armagh are in a "good place" ahead of Fermanagh showdown: Ciaran McKeever

Armagh's Ciaran McKeever hasn't lost faith in the squad's ability to turn their year around

THE outside world may hold a different view – but Ciaran McKeever says Armagh are in a “good place” ahead of Sunday’s make-or-break Championship showdown with Fermanagh at The Athletic Grounds.

The Orchard men were humbled by neighbours Down on June 4 and while their performance drew harsh criticism, McKeever has every faith that they can rebuild their season on Sunday night.

The veteran defender, who celebrates his 34th birthday on Sunday, revealed the players were “hard on each other” after the Down defeat.

They let a one-point half-time lead slip and were out-foxed by Down in a desperately disappointing second half.

“The players have spoken about the Down game and we’ve been hard on each other. We didn’t implement what we’ve been doing in training.

“Down were going to shut up shop at some stage in the match. What we’ve been coached by our management team, we did not carry out on the pitch.

“That’s frustrating for us as players. That’s our responsibility. We didn’t implement what we’ve been coached in the second half.”

Armagh have been more expansive in their play this year and were desperately unlucky not to gain promotion out of Division Three.

“This is probably one of the most enjoyable years I’ve had with Armagh in a number of years,” McKeever said.

“The way we’ve been playing all year has been exciting. Obviously we didn’t get out of Division Three. We felt we were good enough, but we didn’t get across the line.

“It’s something we have to learn, as players, how to close out matches. But I still believe we’re in a really good place. I think we’re one wee click away from making good progress.

“All these boys want to play for Armagh. They’re just a great bunch to be about. They bring so much to the table and they’re not far away.

“If we get across the line against Fermanagh, whatever happens after that could be a real stepping stone for these players. But our focus is on Sunday’s game.

“We’re going to face 13 or 14 men behind the ball but I think Fermanagh play it a lot better than what Down do because they’re used to it over the last number of years.”

McKeever also heaped praise on McGeeney’s coaching style and feels the players owe it to the management team to get a result against Fermanagh on Sunday.

“If you ask any one of the players, Geezer’s management style is unbelievable, his coaching is unbelievable, the support team he has around him is unbelievable.

“We just feel, as players, we haven’t justified that the past couple of years. Once you cross that white line there is very little management can do – it’s about our decision-making and appetite on the pitch.

“I feel the whole thing is about to change. Getting a result against Fermanagh is crucial.”

McKeever is likely to be among Armagh’s substitutes again on Sunday evening while McGeeney’s 12-week sideline ban still hasn’t lapsed and the Mullaghbawn man will once again be in the stands.

“From the get-go this year, the mindset, the attitude and the appetite of this squad have been excellent,” added the Cullyhanna man.

“It can be frustrating because we’ve been pipped on the line a few times in tight matches. We have to learn to close out matches better but I’ve great belief in this group of players that that will change.”

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