Kieran McGeeney looks to maintain momentum as Armagh eye back-to-back Ulster final appearances

Orchard boss happy to welcome back returning stars to bolster team in win over Fermanagh

Fermanagh's Brandon Horan  and Armagh's Stefan Campbell in action during the Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final at Brewster Park
Fermanagh's Brandon Horan and Armagh's Stefan Campbell in action during the Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final at Brewster Park (Philip Walsh)

Ulster SFC quarter-final Fermanagh 0-9 Armagh 3-11

ARMAGH manager Kieran McGeeney says his side will keep “plugging away” as they advanced to the Ulster Championship semi-final with a convincing 11-point victory over Fermanagh on Sunday afternoon.

After ending their 15-year wait for an Ulster final appearance last season, the Orchard are now 70 minutes away from securing another spot in the provincial final – but they have to overcome Down before they start planning too far ahead.

McGeeney, now in his 10th season in charge of his native county, is happy with where is side is at present, having just gained promotion back to Division One, but isn’t sure how much they have improved inside the last 12 months.

“It’s hard to say, I think Armagh have been in a decent place for the last four or five years, but unless we win All-Irelands and things...” laughed the 2002 All-Ireland winning captain.

“We got beat by Derry last year on penalties (in the Ulster final) and everything Derry’s doing is f****** brilliant and everything we’re doing is a load of s****. That’s just the way sport goes, you can’t get any closer.

“They’re classed as a top team so listen; all we can keep doing is plugging away. It’s not that we think we can’t do better – we can, but we just have to get better at those tight moments.”

While Ulster final appearances have been few and far between for the Orchardmen over the last number of years, getting back to that stage and playing against the top teams regularly is important as McGeeney explains.

Armagh's Kieran McGeeney at the start of the Ulster GAA Senior Football Championship Quarter Final between Fermanagh and Armagh at Brewster Park, Fermanagh on 04-14-2024. Pic Philip Walsh
Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney

Armagh haven’t collected the Anglo-Celt Cup since 2008 when they beat Fermanagh in the Ulster final after a replay, and building momentum throughout the Championship is key.

“For us it’s just about momentum the whole time, it’s about trying to get and build momentum and play the top teams and come out better in the result part of it,” he added.

“Any time you get a chance to play in those finals or against the top four or five teams, you have to take them... it gives you an honest assessment of where you are on that day.”

McGeeney was delighted to welcome Rian O’Neill back into the starting line up, while Jarly Óg Burns came in for some added praise as well. Aidan Nugent, Oisin O’Neill and Tiernan Kelly all saw game time too having played bit-part roles in the League.

“Rian and Jarly getting back in to start, they gave us a great 40 minutes to begin with this time and they set the tone in terms of their work ethic,” added McGeeney.

“Rian got us a couple of free-kicks, he was dragged down and kicked a lovely point. Jarly was excellent as well, so we were very happy with everybody and it’s a good start for us. Nugent’s looking more like himself and we got him on the pitch, the same with Oisin as well.

“Getting TK back up to pace, it was good. Barry (McCambridge) was struggling coming into today with an ankle injury, we had to use him because Aaron (McKay) got a yellow.

“With Conor O’Neill and Greg (McCabe) injured we were just short a few so were we happy with the way the fellas came in and performed. It wasn’t that we were expecting to get the same again, there was a good stiff breeze when we were going up the hill. It was a draw game in the second half, but there were a lot of good moves. I think we had eight, nine or 10 wides too throughout the game so there’s plenty to improve on as well.”