GAA Football

Our training camp was worth its weight in gold to our preparations: Armagh ace Aaron McKay

Aaron McKay got a snapshot of a professional athlete's life during Armagh's four-day training camp in Portugal

ARMAGH defender Aaron McKay says the team’s four-day training camp in Portugal last month was the equivalent of three or four weeks training back home and believes they have left no stone unturned ahead of their Ulster Championship showdown with Fermanagh in Brewster Park on Saturday night.

Now in his third season with the Armagh seniors, McKay has continued where he left off last year, stringing together a number of good performances in their successful League campaign.

“The training camp felt like three weeks or a month’s training in four days,” said the 22-year-old full-back.

“It has helped preparations massively. You get a good perspective of what it must be like for professional athletes and it’s great to be able to put your total energy into your game.

“It’s definitely helped improve us as a squad and as individuals. Obviously you have to do everything you can to give yourself the best chance in Ulster.”

Twelve months ago, Armagh suffered a first round exit at the hands of Down but recovered brilliantly to reach the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

McKay earned Championship starts against Down, Westmeath, Fermanagh and Kildare and is hoping to nail down the full-back jersey this weekend.

“People probably thought we’d never get to an All-Ireland quarter-final after the Down defeat,” McKay said.

“Everybody thought we’d have a short summer but that was maybe the start of proving people wrong. There is something in this squad that can push on and be successful. We’re looking to have a long summer again but our focus is May 19.

Armagh lost some high-profile players from last season’s squad, including Jamie Clarke, James Morgan, Ciaran O’Hanlon and Stefan ‘Soupy’ Campbell – but the Orchard men still won promotion out of Division Three and don’t look weakened by the absentees.

Patrick Burns, Gregory McCabe, Ryan McShane and Ben Crealey are just some of the relatively new names that have really impressed so far this season.

“There was a lot talked about the departures at the start of the year after us having a good run through the Qualifiers. But I think there are players in our squad that could match anyone in the country.

"It’s about some of them believing in themselves and pushing on. Because we’re such a young squad people people just need a bit of patience and I think the hard work will pay off sooner rather than later.”

The Dromintee clubman also paid tribute to Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney and the influence he’s had on his career over the last three seasons.

“His influence has been massive,” McKay said.

“He’s been a role model for me and he’s taught me everything in regards to how I should live my life in terms of a Gaelic footballer.

“You have to push your body to the limit but it’s something that I relish and you dream of this as a child so it’s great to be doing it.”

McKay will hope to nail down one of the defensive berths ahead of Saturday’s duel with the Ernemen especially with Paul Hughes ruled out.

“I’ll play anywhere. I’ll do what I’m asked.”

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