Video: Ulster counties inspired by Cavan Anglo-Celt win says Armagh's Ciaran McKeever
EVERY other Ulster county looked on enviously at Cavan’s unexpected success in last year’s Championship and this year they’ll feel they can follow in their footsteps, says Armagh assistant-manager Ciaran McKeever.
The former Orchard county skipper, an Anglo-Celt winner five times during his playing days, hooked up with one-time team-mate Kieran McGeeney in time to prepare Armagh for their return to Division One.
Survival will be number one on the agenda for the top flight newcomers and McKeever expects the Orchard squad to respond well to the challenges ahead.
“As a player and as a coach, Division One is the level you want to be at,” said the Cullyhanna native.
“That’s what you want to expose yourself to and that’s what you’re thinking about every day. I’m watching videos of Armagh and watching videos of the Dublins, the Kerrys, the Tyrones, the Monaghans… You’re trying to pick holes in them and seeing how we can get at them.
“Ultimately, as a player and as a coach, that’s the level, you want to be competing in Division One so it’s something to look forward to over the next weeks and months whenever we’re allowed to get back on the pitch.”
When the inter-county season does resume Armagh, like every other county, will have one eye on the Ulster Championship.
Cavan produced a series of thrilling wins to take the title last year and McKeever says that success will have inspired the eight other Ulster counties.
“If you look through Cavan’s history over the last decade it (their Ulster title) probably comes as no surprise,” he said.
“They were quite successful at underage level – they won four Ulster U21s in-a-row. It took a while for that to come through to inter-county senior level and that is the thing – you can win all the titles you want at U21 level but it takes a while for that to come through to senior level.
“The Cavan boys fought their way through, it was a hard road, but they got their reward last year by winning the Ulster title. They’ll be hungry again this year and they’ll see this as an opportunity to kick on again.
“Like every other county in Ulster, we saw Cavan winning the Championship and on any given day we would back ourselves against them.
''The challenge we all have now is that every county in Ulster is going to be saying: ‘We have the opportunity to win the Championship’ and that’s the beauty of the thing.”
McKeever stepped down as Armagh minor manager after two years yesterday and also brings three years’ of experience with Down’s senior outfit Mayobridge to the Orchard set-up.
“I’ve been on the coaching circuit a while now,” he explained.
“Even when I was still playing I did a lot of coaching in Louth. I served my time at the academy squads and I’ve been involved with Mayobridge in Down for the last three years.
''I’m looking forward to the new challenge of being involved with Armagh seniors.
''I’m looking to go in there and add to what already is a great set-up and I’m relishing the opportunity to work with the players but we’re not at that stage of sorting out a squad yet.
“All I have been doing is having Zoom meetings with the management team so until we get official confirmation of what’s happening, we won’t meet the squad as a whole and see who’s in and who’s out.”
............. Sports Extra .............
1: Eglish excitement at return of Mattie McGleenan as boss
Mattie McGleenan's homecoming has sparked a new wave of hope and optimism in the village of Eglish. After a high-flying decade on the provincial circuit at club and county level with Scotstown and Cavan, the former Tyrone star is back among his own people.
2: Niall Scully unsure over split GAA season
The GAA’s Annual Congress recently passed a rule that will see future All-Ireland finals played by the middle of July at the latest, paving the way for a permanent split between the club and inter-county seasons. “I’m not sure whether a split season is the way best going forward,'' said Dublin's Niall Scully. ''Is a three or four month break for club players what they are looking for? That would be my concern on it.”