GAA Football

Talent easy to find - dedication is a longer search: Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney

Kieran McGeeney is trying to put the pride back into the Armagh jersey

THERE were some brilliant individual displays in Armagh’s fine victory over Louth last Sunday – but boss Kieran McGeeney insists the key to reaching your potential is performing as part of the collective.

In dismissing Division Three leaders Louth with 13 points to spare, the Orchard County produced arguably their most convincing display under the 2002 All-Ireland winning captain.

While lauding the impact of Ciaran McKeever, Stephen Sheridan and Niall Grimley in the side’s third win on the bounce, ‘Geezer’ said that every county had their fair share of talent.

“I believe every county has talent; it’s not hard to find – it’s hard to find that type of commitment and dedication and understanding that it’s a team sport, and that individuals can’t win it but teams can.

“Trying to get them to buy into that process is difficult.

“You see that in all the divisions. You saw Cavan beating Mayo. Every team has talent – it’s just about harnessing it.”

Armagh suffered relegation from Division Two last season and endured an instantly forgettable 2016 Championship campaign that ended in the earliest of exits.

After a couple of early-season stutters – drawing to Sligo and losing to Laois – Armagh have hit form and are in the shake-up for promotion with two games remaining, both at home to Antrim and Tipperary.

“Belief is a very difficult thing to give a person,” said McGeeney.

“It’s an intrinsic thing. They’re all playing county football because they’re good but I think in order to be great you have to learn to play with other people. You can’t do it on your own. Sometimes it looks like that but it’s not.”

The former Armagh captain also hoped to put a bit of pride back into the orange jersey whether that’s under his watch or the next man that takes over.

“We’re trying to change the team. I know people see it differently from the outside but we’re trying to bring the culture back into Armagh - that it’s great to wear the Armagh jersey.

“That takes time. Whether it’s somebody else comes in and finishes the job or we can get the team turned around in time for some long summers remains to be seen. But the fellas are keen and they’re putting in a good shift.”

Armagh lost Stefan Campbell, Andy Murnin and Mark Shields to injury in the lead-up to last Sunday’s crucial tie with Louth.

But among those who came in, veteran defender Ciaran McKeever drew a special mention from his manager.

The Cullyhanna native played as a makeshift full-forward and excelled in the role.

Not only did he bag the first of Armagh’s three goals, he won the turnover that led to Rory Grugan’s opening score after seven minutes, he had a hand in Niall Rowland’s major and he set up second half scores for Sheridan and Jamie Clarke.

“Ciaran was brilliant inside,” said McGeeney, who also played McKeever in the full-forward’s role in their McKenna Cup tie with Derry.

“He might've lost a yard of pace – he’ll shoot me for saying that! – but he’s always had brilliant feet.

"And probably his physical reputation has hidden that fact. But anybody who has coached him – Aussie Rules or Ulster – they’ll tell you he’s such good feet.”

Asked about the significance he attaches to gaining promotion this year, ‘Geezer’ replied: “It’s hard to know. I would probably be more worried about getting a run in the summer for the growth [of this team].

"We’ve put a lot of emphasis on the League and the minute it’s over everybody tells you it’s no good. You’re judged in the summer - and we haven’t had brilliant summers.”

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