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Our stars do not train too hard, blasts McGeeney

By John Campbell

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney pulls no punches in a caustic assessment of what he sees as a major current misconception within the hugely competitive inter-county sphere.

Clearly discomfited by what he feels are ongoing erroneous analyses of the training and match preparation demands made on players at this level, the Orchard County boss discounts the theory that teams are immersed in too many training sessions.

"The problem within the GAA at the minute is that there are far too many perceptions and not enough facts," rapped McGeeney. "Too many, I would say, non-reporters who maybe take one or two facts and run with a story that does not even resemble the truth. All the false perceptions do not really help anybody.

"In my opinion, I believe we only think we train hard. Everybody says things have changed drastically but I struggle to see that. Most teams do two training sessions and two gym sessions in a week - indeed, I would be surprised if even most clubs don't do that.

"In fact, most clubs are already back in training for their Championships that don't start until September and yet it's the county teams that are being got at.

"I admit, though, that county players are in better shape than they were when I was playing. But I read somewhere that players are now watching what they eat and how they look after themselves - I like to think that my young son does this as normal."

McGeeney's sharp observations come in the wake of his admission that Armagh did not undertake a full-scale pre-training regime this year yet still lost a raft of players to injuries.

It is only now as 2016 draws to a close that McGeeney is beginning to see a light at the end of a tunnel which has encouraged him to articulate his fervent sporting New Year wish.

"Somewhere along the line I would just like to be able to field what in my mind's eye is my strongest possible team," revealed McGeeney. "This is something that I have not been able to do for some time now. I just want my best players out on the pitch playing games together. That's ultimately what I am looking for.

"I take encouragement from the fact that Paul Hughes and Jamie Clarke are both back from America, Andrew Murnin is in full training again as is James Morgan and so hopefully we will have a better year in 2017 without injuries."

McGeeney endured considerable frustration this year as he was slowly but surely stripped of a considerable ration of experience not just through injuries but also through the loss of Finian Moriarty, Steven Harold and Caolan Rafferty for different reasons.

"We lost a lot of players at the one go and that's hard to take," stated McGeeney.

"To throw seven or eight players in to replace those who were absent was a big ask and maybe someone else would have done a better job than me but it's a huge task nonetheless.

"It's very difficult for a team like Armagh to replace players of that calibre. We struggled at the start of the league this year through mistakes that I and not the players made because we ended up having no cover for defenders and we had to play forwards in defence and things like that.

"There are times you are trying to retain a tighter panel because you are only allowed to have so many but then that can restrict you. This year we are trying to keep a bigger panel but that costs money at the end of the day.

"We're not like some other teams who appear to have considerable resources. But the bottom line is that I think we have a bunch of guys who want to play for Armagh and that's the important thing.

"I think if you get that then you have a fighting chance. When you are engaged in trying to fit everyone in then you know you are going in the right direction."

Belfast Telegraph

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