Belfast Telegraph

Jamie Clarke will feel the benefit of his unusual position with Armagh

After Sunday's season-opener against Tyrone, Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney emerged from the dressing room and addressed all questions with consideration and honesty.

However, it was his deployment of Jamie Clarke in this encounter that provided the real tactical meat for students of the game.

Asked if Clarke playing at half-back was a long-term plan, he answered: "It just gives him a different set of skills, an understanding of how the ball is going to come in."

That line was reminiscent of a line about a former basketball coach who played all of his players in different positions so that they could better gain an understanding of what each position required, also giving them a different view of the court.

In 'Stillness and Speed', Dennis Bergkamp's autobiography, he describes his football education under Johan Cruyff at Ajax.

Instead of playing him in his customary right of midfield position in a game for one of their development sides, he placed him at right-back.

Cruyff spoke about it in the book. He said: "Yes, of course we did that to provoke Dennis... If you play someone like Bergkamp at right-back with a right-winger in front of him who does nothing to help defend, then he experiences first-hand what it's like for the guy behind him when he's the winger and lets his man get away."

This is coaching on the job. It should be applauded.

Instead, there are some Armagh fans who might see Clarke playing so far from goal and pull their hair out, but his increased involvement was intriguing as he ghosted into dangerous positions from deep when they were in possession.

As well as that, we spotted a ball-carrying strength and coolness from Clarke that, yes, we have seen in tight corners before, but works exceptionally well outfield, too.

Think of Clarke in the Championship last year.

Against Neil McGee in the All-Ireland quarter-final, he cut a frustrated, scoreless figure. McGee actually seized the freedom to blast upfield himself and kick a point.

With that in mind, Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice was determined not to allow his star attacker James O'Donoghue to suffer the same indignity. So he moved around the edge of the shooting zone all day, robbing McGee of his natural home.

O'Donoghue might have ended that game scoreless himself, but that was down to some uncharacteristically poor shooting than any great defensive plan. He also upset McGee's game and was ever-available around the middle as another body comfortable in possession and able to eat the clock up with Kerry in the lead.

As a coach, McGeeney belongs to the 'show, don't tell' bracket. If you can't try things out in January, when can you try them?

Belfast Telegraph

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