Armagh return for captain marvel McGeeney
There was always a danger that one day Kieran McGeeney would come back to haunt his native county.
Armagh’s inspirational All Ireland winning captain in 2002 makes the trip to Crossmaglen tomorrow afternoon as manager of Kildare along with another former Orchard County player as his assistant, Aidan O’Rourke.
It all adds to the intrigue surrounding a game that will have a critical bearing on league prospects.
Geeser’s almost fanatical approach to football is the stuff of legend.
The physical preparations he underwent and the character of the man on the field marked him out as one of the most influential players of his generation.
Incredibly driven and ferociously strong, he more than anyone else reflected the change in emphasis of football training, away from endurance and instead focusing on power.
The physically explosive body design of the modern GAA player is something Geeser and his Armagh team pioneered.
But what was it that prompted Kildare to turn to him in their hour of need?
Firstly there is no magic formula with the man from Mullaghbawn.
The principles he has planted in Kildare has made them a more formidable side and are already bearing fruit.
He might still be learning the ropes, but as a former mentor pointed out, his leadership qualities would stand him to him in any walk of life.
Another big plus in Geeser’s favour are his communication skills. Those who have shared a dressing room with him will testify there is no banging of tables, or throwing of cups, just inspirational, clear messages.
Even in his role as chairman of the GPA, McGeeney has always been the articulate type, a man who instantly commands respect.
“He always spoke with passion,” said former Armagh boss Joe Kernan. “Passion and drive were his hallmarks. When Kieran spoke in the dressing room you could be sure everyone was listening.
“In terms of preparation he was immense. He played in training the same way he played in championship matches.
“That one thing really stood out,” said Kernan.
If Armagh’s All Ireland breakthrough of 2002 taught the football world anything, it was that McGeeney wouldn’t be denied an All Ireland medal.
As he clutched the Sam Maguire to his chest, there was the sense that he had just achieved part of what he set out to do with his career.
On the pitch the Mullaghbawn man led by example, inspiring those around him. And his reading of the game was one of his most unrecognised strengths.
That, according to Kernan, is the making of him as a manager.
“You can put everything down in black and white and you can train to be the fittest men in the country. But it’s the decisions you make that win or loses you games.”
As recently as last summer Geeser led the Lily Whites to a Leinster final showdown with Dublin. Cork then beat them in the All Ireland quarter-finals, but there was no disgrace in that.
Beaten by Down in this season’s league, they have bounced back and are again among the front runners for promotion.