GAA Football

No way are Derry 'no-hopers' says Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney ahead of Celtic Park Championship clash

No way are Derry 'no-hopers' says Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney ahead of Celtic Park Championship clash. Picture by John Merry.
Andy Watters

ARMAGH are odds-on favourites to beat Derry in Sunday’s Ulster SFC quarter-final but the Orchard camp aren’t buying into the hype that Rory Gallagher’s Oaf Leafers will be “no-hopers” at Celtic Park.

Having clinched promotion with victory over Clare in Ennis last weekend, Kieran McGeeney’s Orchardmen travel to the Bogside as a fully-fledged Division One side and two tiers will separate the Ulster counties next season after Derry finished third in Division Three.

However, Gallagher masterminded Fermanagh’s surprise win over Armagh while manager of his native county two years ago and McGeeney says Derry include players well suited to the counterattacking style that will cause his team plenty of headaches on Sunday.

“There is definitely pace in that Derry team,” he said.

“Despite everyone trying to build them up into no-hopers, Derry seem to be doing a good job of it.

“Derry have top class footballers, always really quick, a couple of wing-backs from the U20s over the last two years are really quick and with Conor Glass back in they are definitely buoyed so it’s back to the drawing board.”

Promotion meant that McGeeney has taken Armagh from the Division Three doldrums to the top flight in the space of three seasons. He joked that he and his players had “12 hours of celebrating in the car going up the road and that will be it” before the Orchard panel turn their attention to the Ulster Championship. It’s a quicker-than-normal turnaround in a unique season.

“It’s just a flip of a coin, who knows what is going to happen this week?” McGeeney mused.

“You just don’t know, we didn’t say anything coming up to the Roscommon match because we didn’t want to be in the same boat as other people giving out about it (Covid infection) but we had 18 players missing for two of the four weeks we had training and they were nearly all our starting team.

“There are people out there sick and dying so we just have to be careful what we say or do, and we just kept our mouths closed and we wanted to play the games.

“We are just delighted that we have gotten to Division One and now we have the chance to play in the Championship and take whatever games we get.”

Armagh are capable of producing superb spells in games against any opposition and playing top flight football next season against the best teams in the country will benefit emerging young players like Rian and Oisin O’Neill, Jarlath og Burns and Conor Turbitt.

“The thing for us at the beginning of the year was that we know we make mistakes in the Championship and they cost us against the top teams, or any team, and we want to be in the first division to learn those lessons,” said McGeeney.

“Last week, when we were playing Roscommon, people were saying we can’t win games we are supposed to win. Roscommon were Connacht champions two out of three years and beat Mayo and Galway on the way to it last year so that wasn’t saying too much for Roscommon.

“We know Division One is where we need to be playing if we want to go further in the Championship. We have the Championship now in front of us but knowing we have the first division to give us the lessons we need for this team to be able to progress.”

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GAA Football