Off The Fence

Off the Fence: Armagh fans pay tribute to Ciaran McKeever

Armagh Fan's abiding memory of Ciaran McKeever is one of him in an Ireland jersey, putting manners on the Aussies.

CIARÁN Maximus McKeever. Born 180AD in Cullyhannadus.

Fought many wars and was a most loyal soldier to generals Kernan, O’Rourke, Grimley, McGeeney, et al.

And he could play a bit too.

Funnily enough his final season will probably best be remembered for the discovery of a goalscoring touch, but for the bulk of his career, he was a prime man-marker or an erudite sweeper.

‘Armagh Fan’ was first in the queue to praise McKeever after he announced his retirement last week.

“I would just like to wish Ciaran McKeever all the best for best for his retirement. A great servant of Armagh and a man who could 'mix it' and play ball in equal measure.

“Oddly enough, my best memory of Ciaran is of him in an Irish jersey. It was an International Rules match in Australia when the Irish were being bullied off the pitch.

“McKeever had the ball in a tight spot with his heels right on the sideline when a 17 stone plus Aussie met him with a full on shoulder.

“Like the crowd there, from ten thousand miles away, in my minds eye I anticipated McKeever being tossed into the air and winding up in a heap in the sideline. Instead, the Aussie bounced off McKeever and landed on his ass, and McKeever, who hadn't flinched, calmly laid the ball off to a colleague. It was one of those moments when you are proud to be Irish.

“Another incident stands out. Colm O'Rourke's criticism of McKeever for lying down when Tomas Ó Sé kneed him in the groin a few years back in a league match in Kerry. Clearly, O'Rourke neither knew McKeever, nor what it feels like to be kneed in the groin.”

Brendan Crossan managed to secure a Q&A with the man himself for you all on Saturday. And when ‘Pól’ considered his answer to ‘Are you not entertained?’ he fell on the side of ‘ach I am aye’.

“Saturday’s interview by Brendan Crossan with Ciaran McKeever was a very enjoyable read and provided a great insight into the Armagh mans pride and dedication in playing for his county.

“I was particularly struck by his comment of young players ignoring outside influences telling them they are wasting their time playing for their county particularly if they have to bide their time and sit on the bench for a while.

“My earnest hope is that the young Gaels of Derry will take on board this advice.”

CO’K: One of McKeever’s great strengths was his attitude. That said, he came on to an Armagh squad that had just won an All-Ireland title. Comparing the attitude of subs on a successful team and one that hasn’t won an Ulster title in 20 years is apples and oranges territory.

Meanwhile, ahead of Sunday’s main event at Croke Park, ‘Rua Ui Raighan’ has reacted to Mickey Harte’s praise for Dublin’s structures and how they use all that lovely GAA funding every year.

“Well, he's the expert. I do think it's likely that a bigger population is an advantage, but that's just the way sport is. All's fair on the pitch but every team in every sport has different circumstances. We take on England in the soccer and they've 10 times our population. USA, China, Russia and so on. Also, Dublin get the heads bate off them in the hurling (except the under 17s and fair play) and that comes down to tradition and having experienced people to learn from and so-on.”

CO’K: Dublin received just under €1.5m in Games Development funding from Croke Park last year. Tyrone received €119,000. Population differences are one thing but when the governing bodies are actively handing down a major competitive advantage, it’s a different story.

‘Cynical Tyrone fan’ feels that Tyrone’s best chance of reaching a final is if Mayo prevail in Saturday’s replay against Kerry.

“If Kerry beat Mayo, which they probably will, then the pressure will be on for a Kerry-Dublin final, and the Leinster ref will give soft frees to Dublin to make sure that the 'dream final' happens. If Tyrone are to have any chance of fair play in the semi, Mayo need to win their replay.”

CO’K: The income from the 82,300 that buy tickets for a Dublin-Kerry final wouldn’t be a cent different from tickets for a Tyrone-Mayo final. RTÉ won’t pay any more for the rights. I don’t think it matters a pile to the GAA who is in the final as long as all the seats are filled.

Elsewhere, ‘Derry supporter’ is anxious to know who will fill the managerial vacancy in the Oak Leaf county.

“In your paper a few weeks ago, a back page headline stated Paul McIver was going to manage Kilcoo for at least another year and was not interested in the Derry job. Rumours circulating the county are saying that he will be the next manager. It’s been on the cards for quite some time apparently. As a Derry supporter I would like to know the true story but I hope for the future of Derry football that the rumours are incorrect.”

CO’K: Paul did good work with the minors a couple of years back and set the ball rolling at that level. But his eyes seem to be on that elusive Ulster club success with Kilcoo. But he wasn’t nominated so it would be a surprise if he was the man.

And lastly, ‘Frustrated South Derry man’ wanted a cut off the county’s CCC, but while his argument has a small bit of merit, you could say the same about every one of the 32 counties in Ireland.

“I’m having a go at Derry CCC and the irony of their fixture planners. During the months of April, May, June and July, the county is always bogged down in arguments and debates galore about the club v county situation. Then along comes mid-August and guess what, the county playing season is over and so is the club season for half the clubs in the county. In another week’s time, it’s over for virtually all the clubs except a few. Not another competitive game for a club except the championship winners until April 2018. Seven months away. There’s something not right that needs to be addressed urgently.”

CO’K: Club players do not want their season to start in October and end in April. They want to play in the summer when pitches aren’t frozen over or flooded. And the windows are limited because counties have to produce champions by mid-October to ensure representation at provincial level. Players would probably like more competitive games but with that comes further issues around club v county,

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Off The Fence