Future is bright for Armagh but Kieran McGeeney remains undecided
KIERAN McGeeney says the “future is bright” for Armagh but the agonising one-point loss to Mayo on Saturday night could have been his last game as manager.
In another what-might-have-been defeat, McGeeney’s men missed two second half goal chances and a last gasp chance to level the game and so they exited the Championship in Castlebar despite battling back from five points down against the regular Sam Maguire challengers.
Armagh County Board chairman Mickey Savage has already given McGeeney his backing to continue at the helm but the former Orchard County skipper will take time to consider his options.
“It’s probably a wee bit early yet,” he said.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of the players. It’s a pity they didn’t get any more out of it, they deserved a wee bit more from that that today, but that’s the way it goes.”
When asked if there was any reason that he wouldn’t continue in the role he has held for the past five years since succeeding Paul Grimley, McGeeney said: “There’s 101 (reasons).
“The only thing about management is when you start, there’s very few people that like you and by the time you finish they all don’t like you, so it’s a tough station.
“You have to listen to some shit, but when you work with fellas like that (the players), it can make it worthwhile.
“They are a really good bunch of fellas and it’s a joy to be able to go to training with them and see them in action.
“They really go for things, they have no fear and they play a really nice brand of football.
“They go at it, and when they don’t get rewarded for the way they play that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes.”
- How the Armagh players rated against Mayo
- Armagh left with more what ifs after a Championship campaign blighted by near misses
McGeeney was annoyed that referee Maurice Deegan played only four minutes of additional time at the end of the second half (exactly the same as the first) despite a number of stoppages for injuries.
“It’s disappointment,” he said, when asked to sum up his feelings on the game.
“We had our chances and we didn’t take them. You would have thought there’d have been a wee bit more time (added on). Four minutes? There must have been at least 10 head injuries in the second half.
“I don’t know how you can have so many head injuries in a game? It’s amazing and yet nobody is taken off… It’s very hard to take that sort of stuff and then they play four minutes extra. We’ve played in games this year with six or seven minutes (added on) and no head injuries.”
He added: “The boys put in a great shift and you’d think they’d have deserved something from it but that’s sport, it’s a cruel thing at times.”
Armagh signed off on 2019 having retained their division two status and taken the scalps of Down (their first win in the Ulster Championship under McGeeney) and Division One outfit Monaghan in the Qualifiers.
“They have been playing well all year,” said the Armagh manager.
“Every game they’ve played in, they’ve been competitive. They just don’t have the same dark arts experience that other teams probably have and it cost them at the end of games.
“The fellas have moved really well in the past couple of years and we’ve been there or thereabouts and we’ve had a good, competitive season. We just struggled at the end of a couple of games and it has cost us. That comes with experience but (look at) the age profile of the team and we have a couple of good younger players coming through so the future is definitely bright for them if they stay strong as a unit and push on. We were probably the same in the mid-90s, we needed one or two big wins to get that momentum behind you and a bit of belief.”
Mayo progressed by the skin of their teeth but manager James Horan felt his side deserved their win and should have closed the game out more comfortably after Kevin McLoughlin’s second half goal had put them in a commanding position
“We were five up with 10 to go and we should have closed it out a bit better but we had to dig hard in the last couple of minutes we did that very well I thought,” he said.
“Our full back line and Colm Boyle in particular was under pressure but showed very well for kick outs and they give us the platform to finish out the game. Delighted with the win and we're in the pot.”
He added: “We were five up and attacking and gave away a sloppy turnover and Armagh got a score and got a couple of frees and momentum went their way.
“I thought we fought it back well. Kevin McLoughlin won a free and Cillian scored it. I thought we stemmed the tide and ran out deserving winners in the end.”