Why were Armagh punished while Derry escaped sanction for Celtic Park off-the-ball incidents asks Kieran McGeeney

Armagh “in a good place” ahead of third All-Ireland quarter-final in four seasons

Kieran McGeeney is in his 10th year in charge of Armagh. Picture by Philip Walsh
"Two things highlighted, one thing seen... That sort of stuff is hard to take," says Kieran McGeeney

TWO incidents from the Derry-Armagh game (Conor Glass on Connaire Mackin and Connaire Mackin on Conor Glass) were highlighted to the GAA’s Competitions Control Committee (CCC) but only one was deemed to be punishable and Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney admits he found that “hard to take”.

Armagh’s Mackin was suspended for his county’s clash with Galway in Sligo last Sunday as he served a one-game ban for an altercation with Derry’s Glass at Celtic Park. The incident wasn’t spotted by the referee but it was picked up by TV cameras and dealt with retrospectively.

It was viewed as a Category Three offence warranting a one-match suspension which Armagh appealed but their arguments were rejected.

“I was probably disappointed that there was only one thing seen,” said McGeeney, referring to the earlier incident between Glass and Mackin in which the Derry man appeared to be the aggressor.

“You take it on the chin, two things highlighted, one thing seen... That sort of stuff is hard to take. Everybody had seen it on TV and there were two things highlighted.

“There was a lot happened this weekend, but the same county men (pundits) didn’t spot their own. To me, the CCC in fairness over the last number of years have been extremely fair.

“I found that they’ve got their act together and they are extremely fair in the way they do things now so we would have no complaints that way. I suppose the hardest thing is to see two things highlighted, one thing followed through.”

Mackin will return to contention for Armagh’s All-Ireland quarter-final – their third in four seasons – in a fortnight.

Galway (2021) and Monaghan (last year) blocked their progress to the semi-final stage on penalty shootouts but McGeeney feels the Orchardmen are “in a good place” to make the breakthrough they’ve been striving for.

Ciaran Mackin celebrates as Armagh see off Down to reach the Ulster final. Pic Philip Walsh
Ciaran Mackin will have surgery on his cruciate ligament this week

“Last year, the League was up and down but it was the first division and there was only a point in any game one way or the other,” explained the Armagh manager.

“However, winning games does give you more of a bounce despite that it wasn’t in the first division. I think there’s more of a bounce in the fellas, I think some of our key players are a lot fitter this year and stronger, so I think there’s definitely more of a bounce with the players than there was last year.

“I think we were playing well last year, we pushed Derry the whole way. We were poor in the first half against Monaghan, but we had a decent second half and I think we’re in a good place now.

“It’s two weeks’ away but there’s a good buzz with the boys, you can hear that. It was nice to finish top of the group which will give them another bounce going in. I think we’re in a good place.”

McGeeney will be without Conor O’Neill (Achilles) and Ciaran Mackin (ACL) for the quarter-final. Mackin was out on the pitch during the warm-up on Sunday but McGeeney confirmed that the Shane O’Neill’s clubman is “completely out” and will have surgery on Tuesday.

Rory Grugan was one of several Armagh players who walked gingerly off the field after a bruising encounter with a physical Galway side.

“Galway are a big team, Connacht football is hard hitting, not dirty, but their whole half-forward line is 6′4″,” said McGeeney.

“They’re big boys and it was a hard-hitting game. There weren’t too many whistles blown, did we get a scorable free? I don’t think we did, maybe one (Conor Turbitt scored a late free).

“One in 75 minutes, it’s hard-hitting. In fairness to (Padraic) Joyce, I know him a long time, it’s tough, hard football but you wouldn’t say anything more than that. You know you’re going to get that when you play a Connacht team.”