GAA Football

Kieran Donaghy trying to maximise Armagh's attacking riches: Ciaran McKeever

Kieran McGeeney has recruited former defender Ciaran McKeever (right) onto his backroom team

ARMAGH’S new assistant manager Ciaran McKeever is hoping former Kerry ace Kieran Donaghy can sprinkle some star dust over the Orchard attack as they prepare for their first game in Division One since 2012 against Monaghan on Sunday.

Donaghy was drafted into the Armagh set-up weeks after Kieran McGeeney’s men meekly bowed out of the 2020 Ulster Championship to Donegal at Kingspan Breffni Park.

U17 manager McKeever was also recruited in the close season as ‘Geezer’ shook up his backroom team for 2021.

Armagh will face Monaghan, Tyrone and Donegal over the next three weekends in an abbreviated NFL Division One that has been broken up on a regional basis because of the pandemic.

On Donaghy’s arrival, McKeever said: “Kieran is a bundle of energy, he bounces off the players, the players bounce off him.

“He’s just got great charisma, has a great way with people and with his basketball background, his successful football career with Kerry and having that know-how, the boys are loving him being about the place and they’re really buying into him and asking him questions."

With Jamie Clarke opting out this year, Armagh still have plenty of quality forwards – including Rian and Oisin O’Neill, Stefan Campbell, Rory Grugan, Conor Turbitt, Jason Duffy and Andy Murnin among them.

“We’ve really good firepower, but it’s getting that blend right, and we’re hoping Kieran Donaghy can help get us working as a unit,” McKeever said.

“Probably over the last lot of years we’ve had many individuals and it was maybe a case of: ‘Can I go out and kick six points?’ So Kieran is working really hard with the forwards and trying to maximise the attacking talent that we have.”

McKeever is enjoying being back involved with the Armagh senior set-up after an absence of four years and says the transition from player to coach has been relatively smooth to date.

“I retired at the end of 2017, so I’m four years away from the boys but within that period I still would’ve been close to a lot of them and met them for coffee and chatted about different aspects of life.

“But transitioning from being a team-mate with a lot of them to being a coach has been really good and I’m really enjoying being about again.

“Coaching is just like playing – you’re trying to get up the ladder and better yourself and coaching at elite level and that’s inter-county level.”

McKeever and his partner recently celebrated becoming parents for the first time and even though there is more family commitments, the Cullyhanna man believes he has the perfect support network to take on the Armagh role.

“Obviously when ‘Geezer’ rang me I spoke to my partner and chatted to my own family. My family are big GAA people and big Armagh supporters and I probably was always going to say yes.

“I really enjoyed the two years I worked with the Armagh U17s and being involved in the academy level. Obviously being employed by the Armagh County Board I can dip back down and give a hand out with the U14 and U15s, but I can put my energy into the senior set-up.”

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GAA Football