Armagh will take some stopping says Tipperary boss Liam Kearns
ARMAGH go into Saturday’s showdown against Kildare as underdogs, but Tipperary manager Liam Kearns predicts the Orchard county will be hard to stop this year.
Kearns came to a career crossroads after his Tipp side lost to the Orchardmen in round three of the Qualifiers in Thurles 10 days ago and the Kerry native says the momentum Kieran McGeeney’s outfit have built up through ‘the backdoor’ makes them a dangerous proposition for Kildare at Croke Park this weekend.
“They will be very tough,” he said.
“It’s going to be hard for anyone to beat them because they’ve got momentum and momentum is a very hard thing to stop.
“They are hard-working and well organised and they have a couple of classy footballers. Stefan Campbell off the bench against us and was a good boost for them because we held Jamie Clarke pretty well and (Andy) Murnin is also a good player but we held him pretty well.
“I thought (Niall) Grimley was the key man for them but they are very fit and they’re working very hard and going in the right direction.
“They’ve won three Championship matches now and they’re in the last 12 and one game away from the quarter-finals.”
Armagh produced their most impressive display of Championship football this season to get past Tipperary. They went in two points down at the break and were four in arrears after Michael Quinlivan slammed in a goal early in the second half.
But from then on there was only one winner as Armagh swept forward in wave after wave of fluid attacks. After the victory, selector Paddy McKeever predicted better to come from the side.
“I feel there is more to come from the team and I hope there is because we need more,” he said.
“We could easily have tagged on another couple of goals and maybe three or four points.
“We are going through patches in matches where we’re not being that productive with the possession that we have and that’s something we need to correct if we’re going to live with the bigger teams.”
After the wins over Fermanagh and Westmeath, McKeever said the win over Tipp would add another layer of self-belief to the players.
“It’ll definitely lift their spirits and keep them going,” he said.
“There’s a good atmosphere, a good buzz around training and there’s good camaraderie as well but, with all due respect, we know that we’re going to be up against it the next day. The standard of opposition is going up and up and then we’ll find out where we’re at.”
Armagh supporters will hope for a match-winning performance from Jamie Clarke on Saturday. Clarke stroked home a superb goal to get the Orchardmen over the line at Semple Stadium and McKeever hopes for more consistency from the Crossmaglen maestro.
“With the class that he has, he’s always capable of that,” he said.
“He always keeps showing and he always wants to score. He came away with 1-1 from a five-minute cameo.”
Ballyhegan clubman McKeever, an All-Ireland winner with the Orchardmen in 2002, also highlighted Armagh’s impressive bench strength that includes the likes of Stefan Campbell and Ethan Rafferty.
“There’s fellas sitting there who would grace forward lines in Ulster and probably further afield,” he said.
“We’re blessed in that way, but we have to get the balance right as well.”