GAA Football

Established county players shouldn't be playing Sigerson Cup football says Kieran McGeeney

Kieran McGeeney believes more work can be done to alleviate the fixtures problem facing GAA players. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Neil Loughran

ARMAGH boss Kieran McGeeney does not believe established inter-county players should be playing Sigerson Cup football, or for any other “development squads”.

McGeeney has had several players involved in Sigerson action, with Silverbridge midfielder Jarlath Og Burns a central figure in St Mary’s University College’s run to this weekend’s Sigerson Cup semi-final.

Having only played a handful of games for the Orchardmen at senior level, Burns wouldn’t yet be considered an Armagh regular, but plenty of Sigerson panels are littered with established county men.

And, given the number of fixtures players are being faced with under the current calendar, McGeeney feels this is one area where a change could be of benefit.

“Listen, we all know the fixtures thing’s a mess,” he said.

“Everything’s important, that’s all you can say. Schools football’s important, Sigerson’s important, club’s important, county’s important…

“In fairness, Gavin McGilly [at St Mary’s] was very good, Oisin McConville there with Dundalk… when you have people who are willing to talk, you try to make the best out of it, but it’s not ideal.

“Everybody has to deal with it, it’s not just our thing. It is a fixture problem but I don’t know who’s going to look at that.

“We’re quite different, or unique, in Gaelic football. When you reach the top level you’re still allowed to play for other squads, whereas in any other competitions when you reach the top, those development pathways – whether it’s Sigerson or under 20s – they’re given to other people to develop to get to that level.

“There are ways to do it but it’s quite difficult in this sort of scenario because when you give suggestions; headlines can read a lot different than conversations and somebody lifts it up and goes ‘f**k, what a w**ker McGeeney is…’

“To me, I think if you’re playing first team inter-county football, you should leave development squads to somebody else. If you’re sitting on the bench here, definitely you should be playing Sigerson and stuff like that.

“It is quite a thorny issue for a lot of people because you get scholarships for being an inter-county player, and then part of the scholarship is you’re not allowed to play for your county, which seems a bit counter-productive.

“But I do think we can all do a better job of it.”

McGeeney played Sigerson Cup football for Queen’s in the early 1990s, but says the Gaelic football landscape has changed since his days wearing the green jersey.

“It depends where you are – some people have made their careers out of Sigerson and it gives them a great platform to go on at inter-county, some people haven’t.

“I played it, I loved it myself. I played at Queen’s and we had a successful time there, it’s a great part of your development but Armagh weren’t going great at the time and it was done differently.

“Back then you had three games before Christmas, four games after it and two or three weeks between each game. We really stretched it out back then.”

The Sigerson Cup will be done and dusted by the time McGeeney’s men next take the field for a crunch Division Two clash with Tipperary at the Athletic Grounds.

Following Sunday’s defeat to Meath in Navan, the Orchardmen are currently hovering around the bottom of the table, yet victory over Liam Kearns’s side could propel them back into the promotion shake-up.

“Meath have definitely pushed on and shown their intent for the summer,” said the 2002 All-Ireland winner, who hopes to welcome back Ethan Rafferty and Paddy Burns in the coming weeks.

“We’re not far away but sometimes that last couple of inches can be the hardest to grapple back. We’ve Tipperary now in two weeks, they’re going to get a couple of people back, they’ve had a few injuries like ourselves.

“It’s at home, it’ll be a tough game as every game we’ve had against Tipperary has been the last couple of years, but it’s something to look forward to.”

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