Charlie Vernon has high hopes for full strength Armagh side next season
CHARLIE Vernon has “high hopes” that a full-strength Armagh side can produce a successful Division Two campaign that will give them momentum going into next year's Ulster Championship.
Armagh Harps clubman Vernon, who retired from the inter-county game last month after 14 seasons as an Orchard County regular, says Kieran McGeeney's men are determined to return to “the top table” and build on a season of near-misses in 2019 which culminated in them coming within a whisker of beating Mayo in the Qualifiers.
“There is a new generation coming through,” said Magherafelt-based accountant Vernon.
“You saw how well Jarlath Og Burns and Rian O'Neill did last year and you'd like to think they will progress on that and get better next year.
“Last year was one of the first year's for a while that Armagh had all the players that you'd want to be there, there. That's a huge plus and it made us far more competitive.”
Vernon, an Ulster Championship winner in 2006 and 2008 who played under five managers during his Armagh career, says Armagh's prospects in 2020 could hinge on their NFL campaign.
“The National League will probably be very important in terms of consolidating our Division Two status and building on it,” he said.
“If Armagh have any aspirations of getting back to the top table again they need to be pushing towards Division One. I always looked at and admired Monaghan in that regard in terms of the resources they had and what they were able to get out of themselves.
“Monaghan have been competing in Division One for a long time and there's no reason why Armagh couldn't do something similar.
“I know the players and it is definitely their goal to get right back up there again. If they stick at it and apply themselves then, with the talent they have, it's certainly not beyond them.”
Manager McGeeney begins his sixth year in the Armagh dugout having broken his losing run in the Ulster Championship last season. The former Orchard skipper accepted a new two-year term during the summer and Vernon believes that Armagh's encouraging performance against Mayo last year should give the players “hope and belief” for next season.
“If you're working at something and trying to build a team you need some continuity there,” he said.
“I hope they can build on last year and push for Division One and push for the Super 8s.
“In my experience in football, the difference between success and failure is very small. There were years we were very successful through the Qualifiers and got to the All-Ireland quarter-final and there were years when we were very unsuccessful and got put out early in the Championship but hadn't done a whole pile different in our approach.
“Your success hinges on small margins but coming back after that Mayo performance last year should give the guys hope and belief and a lot of success in county football is between the guys' ears – it's how much they believe in themselves and whether they have the confidence in their own ability to perform.
“I do have high hopes that if we can keep everybody on board and have a good League campaign that they can build into that for the Championship.”