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GAA Football

Paul Grimley backs Kieran McGeeney and Armagh to bounce back from loss to Fermanagh

Paul Grimley and Kieran McGeeney guided Armagh the brink of the All-Ireland semi-finals back in 2014
Andy Watters

NO-ONE will have been hurt more by Armagh's performance against Fermanagh than Kieran McGeeney, says his predecessor Paul Grimley.

Grimley, who brought McGeeney in as his assistant back in 2014 before stepping aside to allow the former Orchard county captain to take over as manager, expects Armagh to erase the memory of the seven-point loss in Enniskillen when they meet Westmeath on June 9. He says a win in Mullingar will set Armagh off on a run through the Qualifiers

“The Fermanagh game was always going to be very tough,” said Grimley, assistant coach to Joe Kernan back in 2002.

“Fermanagh came out on the right side of it and there'll be a lot of hurt in the Armagh changingroom. It will sting and they've had a lot of criticism since it.

“Knowing the management team, and I think they are extremely well suited for the job, they will give the players the incentive and motivation to undo what went wrong and show how good they are.

“I think it's set up for them to do that and I would be very surprised if they don't come out fighting.”

Grimley's last game in the Orchard dugout was the 2014 All-Ireland quarter-final against Donegal.

Armagh pushed the Tir Chonaill men to the pins of their collars in that game but lost by a point. Under McGeeney, the Orchardmen reached the same stage last year, but were well beaten by Tyrone and Grimley admits he had expected the county to make more progress over the past four years.

“The truth is that I did,” he said.

“I expected them to make more progress but Kieran has had a very tough time with players coming in and out, not being available and leaving panel for whatever reason.

“They are marquee forwards – match-winners like Stefan Campbell, Jamie Clarke young Oisin O'Neill… He's had three or four years of that. There's a trend were players are looking to see if they can reap what they sow and get to the later stages of the Championship – maybe some of them don't believe they can and they opt out.

“The players that are there are fully committed to Armagh and they will dust themselves down – they have to – and the management will dust themselves off and get back at it.

“The players Kieran has lost have been key personnel, they're all decent lads and nobody can hold that against them, but it's had an impact in Armagh.

“Kieran was doing a good job building a young team towards an Ulster title, which I thought was a realistic target, but they've been disappointed and the next target is the Super8s. They'll have to play four or five games to get there and they're going to be tough.”

Defeat in Mullingar will lead to calls for a change of direction within Armagh, but Grimley says McGeeney is the right man to lead the county.

“Whatever way the game goes, Kieran would have my full backing for staying on,” he said.

“He has a five-year arrangement with the county board and I would fully expect them to honour that because I know Kieran will honour it.

“Things can change so quickly in sport, all it takes is a bit of momentum and you don't know where you'll end up and I believe Armagh will be in the Championship longer than Fermanagh will.

“You can't put these blips behind you.

“There's nobody hurting as much as Kieran McGeeney and the players. They didn't cover themselves in glory and I would imagine that they want to get out onto the field as quickly as possible and put it right.

“I hope and think that they'll be mad looking to get back out to put it right. They should be wishing it was this Saturday so they can get that (the Fermanagh result) rectified as soon as possible.

“If that is not their attitude then, yes, there's something wrong but I would say that is the attitude in the camp. They want to put that memory to bed and move on through the Qualifiers.”

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