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What Has Happened To Armagh Since 2014? - An Interesting Defence Of Kieran McGeeney

What Has Happened To Armagh Since 2014? - An Interesting Defence Of Kieran McGeeney

Why have Armagh regressed since 2014? 

Alan Kelly said this week that he was the most psychoanalysed politician in the country, almost entirely a legacy of his Niamh Horan interview.

As far as being plonked on the metaphorical psychiatrists coach, the Portroe bruiser has gotten off relatively lightly next to Mr. Kieran McGeeney - All-Ireland winner, Armagh manager, zealous monk.

He is by some distance the most psychoanalysed manager in the GAA world, perhaps rivalled only by Brian Cody, whose psychoanalytic portraits have generally been of the adoring 'how the hell does he maintain the hunger?' variety.

McGeeney's managerial style and personality has become the favoured hobby horse of Joe Brolly, one that he has mounted continually in the past year.

Brolly has painted a picture of a brooding, 'Keanean' figure who looks on in contempt at his own players' shortcomings.

After five seasons at Kildare, where he carried them from nowhere near men to nearly men (they have subsequently returned to their previous position in the pecking order) McGeeney became Paul Grimley's assistant at Armagh.

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Like Gordon Brown - another man who has been psychoanalysed to within an inch of his sanity - it was understood he would assume the top job, except he wouldn't have to wait as long as Brown.

Armagh, who had regressed badly in the opening years of the decade, experienced a renaissance in McGeeney's first year back in the county.

They turned over Cavan in the Ulster quarter-final, in a match that almost became an afterthought following the parade brawl. After being pipped by Monaghan in the semi-final replay, they embarked on a very impressive run through the qualifiers, beating Tyrone, Roscommon and Meath on the way. In the quarter-final, they gave Jim McGuinness a major fright, lengthening the odds on Donegal beating Dublin in the semi-final in the process.

Seeing as Grimley had been floundering in the job himself before McGeeney arrived into to help, it was presumed at the time that 'Geezer' had a lot to do with the revival.

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But since McGeeney assumed the No. 1 job himself, effectively nothing has gone right for Armagh. The promise of 2014 has come to resemble a mirage. Last season's championship offers up almost no redeeming features. They were destroyed by Donegal in Ulster, and then Galway came to Armagh and beat them by three points.

We spoke to Niall McCoy of Gaelic Life about Armagh's decline in the past two years.

He is adamant that McGeeney is a victim of circumstance, citing the 'unbelievable' amount of injuries he has had to cope with.

I think there's a complete lack of realism when it comes to Kieran McGeeney. It seems to be the cool thing to criticise Kieran McGeeney at the moment. There's been a lot of strong criticism of him from certain pundits.

If you delve deeper into the Armagh squad, they've lost their top forward in Jamie Clarke. They've lost their main ballwinner in Caolan Rafferty who's away travelling and working in Hong Kong. They've lost their link man who was sensational in 2014, in Kevin Dyas, he's out for the year.

They've lost their target man in full forward, Andrew Murnin. Everyone inside the county knows that Murnin is an absolute gem of a player. Ciaran McKeever has been injured for the entire League with cartilage damage.

James Morgan, who is probably their best man marker, is getting surgery on his wrist so he's out for the year.

Everyone keeps pointing and saying how can a team that went so far in 2014 show such a lack of competitive fight last year. Now, last year wasn't perfect but if you analyse the team from 2014, you're taking out Brian Mallon, you're taking out Philip McEvoy the goalkeeper, you're taking out Aaron Kernan. Tony Kernan is back this year after a long campaign with Crossmaglen. He's just getting back up to speed.

The amount of men he's been missing has been unbelieveable between injuries and people being away. So I think there has to be a dose of realism here. He's trying to mould a very young group of players into winners.

The coverage the team received this spring was uniformly negative. Relegation is a hard one to spin. Particularly hard to stomach was the seventeen-point loss to Cavan, a match which doesn't say much for their chances this weekend.

But, if one was paying attention, you'd see a marked upswing in their performance level by the end of the League. Following the humbling in Cavan, their last three games went: draw against Tyrone, draw against Galway (would have been win only for ridiculously late goal) and a win over Derry.

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I was asking him this the other night, 'is there no patience in the game anymore?' You referenced the 2002 team which was built from '96-'97 onwards and took another of years to come to fruition. They started winning in '99 and 2000 in Ulster and then on obviously in 2002 in the All-Ireland series.

As I see it, it's fast food punditry where people expect results instantly.

Relegation is never a nice thing but the last three games against Tyrone, Galway and Derry, there was a marked improvement in performances and what they're actually doing. I think within the county, there's a realisation that this a work in progess and it's going  to take time. They've an excellent manager in charge whose preparation levels will be outstanding.

McCoy admits that should Armagh stall again this summer, McGeeney might not survive in the job. There is little point in saying otherwise. But he doesn't agree with the rush. McGeeney needs a couple of more years to build a team capable of matching the top dogs in Ulster.

There's a very young squad. You take Andy Mallon and Ciaran McKeever out of it and it's an incredibly young team. If it doesn't happen this year, listen, there's no point saying otherwise. There'll be a bit of talk about it (the manager's role) and probably deserved if they lose in the first round and go out in the first or second round of the qualifiers.

But I think he's going to need a year or two extra to get this team to anywhere near the level of Monaghan, or Donegal, or Tyrone.

Listen to our McGeeney chat from 40.00m onwards.

Read more: This Man Wants To See Actual Arrests Made After Cork's Loss To Tipperary 

Conor Neville
Article written by
Perennial finalist in stand-up comedy competitions and former Contract Lawyer/ Coal Salesman with Corless, Corless and Sweeney

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