GAA Football

'We're not hitting 60 percent of our potential' - Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney

Armagh's Kieran McGeeney hopes they can stay in Division One ahead of their relegation play-off with Roscommon on June 12 Picture: Philip Walsh.
From Brendan Crossan at The Athletic Grounds

Allianz National Football League Division One North: Armagh 1-16 Donegal 1-16

A PERFORMANCE to be greatly encouraged by – but a result that pushed Armagh into the perilous arms of relegation.

Played in beautiful evening sunshine with supporters returning to an inter-county game for the first time in over a year, Armagh were left kicking themselves that they didn’t seal their Division One status for 2022.

They led Donegal from the first minute, fashioning four and five-point leads before being reeled in as the game ticked into stoppage-time, with Niall O’Donnell grabbing a 72nd minute equaliser.

Saturday night’s draw secured Donegal’s position in the top flight for next season but the Orchard men can still save themselves if they beat relegation play-off opponents Roscommon on June 12.

And for large parts of Saturday’s absorbing encounter Armagh were the better side.

They played superb football in the opening quarter and showed moments of real quality in attack, with manager Kieran McGeeney insisting his team hasn’t yet reached “60 per cent” of their potential.

“We've been pushing the car to get the right sort of thing going over the last few years and we're getting there,” said ‘Geezer’.

“But it's winning battles like this. Like I said at the beginning of the year we have to learn to do that and as the stakes go up you have to be able to make those split decisions a wee bit better.

“We are getting there and I just hope the boys can do themselves justice in the next two or three games to show it.

“I don’t think we are hitting anywhere over 60 per cent yet. I think there is a lot more in these fellas. They are young and they are keen, they are very physically fit and strong and I'd love to see them cut loose some day and hopefully we see that before the end of the summer.”

Despite enduring a defensive injury crisis heading into Saturday night’s clash, the Armagh panel showed considerably depth with seven different players getting on the score sheet.

Stefan ‘Soupy’ Campbell had an outstanding game and is getting back to his very best form with Armagh while Rian and Oisin O’Neill caused the Donegal defence plenty of problems.

But a series of small errors in the second half allowed Donegal to stay in the game as Patrick McBrearty, Ciaran Thompson and Niall O’Donnell kept their cool in the closing stages to find their range.

“We probably went asleep for [Michael] Langan's goal and I think we had another couple of chances ourselves that we need to be just better at but we are going in that direction but I do believe there is a lot more that they are not showing.”

Meanwhile, Donegal boss Declan Bonner says he is “very, very hopeful” star player Michael Murphy will be recovered in time to play in their Ulster Championship opener against Down on June 27.

“Michael's a bad spectator,” Bonner said. “He said: ‘Never again’.”

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