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McGeeney takes his hat off to Orchard youngsters

By John Campbell

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney is preparing to put his faith in a number of youthful starlets as he sets his sights on getting the Orchard county out of Division Three of the Allianz League.

Injuries to some key players and the unavailability of others forced McGeeney to take the plunge and lean on newcomers during the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup competition.

Now he is preparing to experiment further as he begins the task of plotting a pathway back into Division Two.

There was apprehension, cynicism even, when McGeeney revealed that he planned to blood a raft of talent at the outset of the McKenna Cup.

Today, though, he finds himself confronted by what he feels are interesting options as he seeks to regain credibility for a county that is no longer ranked in Ulster's top tier.

"I think players like the Maghery pair Ben Crealey and Ciaran Higgins have been exceptional to date for us and this is very encouraging. They are both still under 21 and have great potential," states McGeeney.

Niall Rowland, Conor White, Oisin Lappin, John Magill, Anthony Duffy and Jemar Hall are some of the other players now pressing strongly for regular recognition in the side.

"Obviously we have Jamie Clarke back with us," says McGeeney.

"Jamie has had itchy feet for the past couple of years which have taken him away from us but he has committed for this year and obviously we want competition for places to be stepped up, that's the important thing," he points out.

McGeeney is hopeful that Kevin Dyas will return from injury before the end of the league while Andrew Murnin, James Morgan and Mark Shields are expected back earlier than that.

This would certainly serve to strengthen McGeeney's hand for what he feels will be a difficult league itinerary.

"Our first two league games are away to Sligo and home to Laois and these certainly won't be easy," says McGeeney.

"Sligo are notoriously difficult to overcome when they are playing at home at Markievicz and Laois are now under Peter Creedon who will be seeking to get the best out of them.

"This is going to make it harder for us.

Most teams would like to get maximum points from their first two games before the league takes a break as it can ease the pressure when the competition resumes.

"We are no different to anyone else. But we hope to be getting players back and obviously we have some additional experience to bring into the side which will be helpful.

"We have upped our scoring ratio this month but we have to maintain and indeed improve this in the weeks that lie ahead," he says.

"That will be a big challenge for us.

"We have a number of tricky assignments in the league and obviously the hope is that we can avoid further injuries.

"We would like to get off on the right foot - that will certainly be necessary if we are to get into the frame for promotion," adds McGeeney.

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