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Ciaran McKeever is up for Orchard challenge at O'Fiaich Cup

By John Campbell

Armagh skipper Ciaran McKeever believes that the O'Fiaich Cup competition will prove a limbering up exercise for what he terms as "the harsh realities" which currently confront him and his team mates.

Provisional arrangements have been made for Tyrone to face Derry and Armagh to take on Louth next weekend and it is understood that formal confirmation of these fixtures will be provided within the next 24 hours.

New Orchard County boss Kieran McGeeney will make his competitive touchline debut in the O'Fiaich Cup and McKeever, while conceding that progress was made this year, insists that bigger demands will be made of the players in 2015.

"We have to face up to the harsh realities that we are beginning the New Year in Division Three and we don't expect to be among the warmest favourites for the Ulster Championship," he said.

"You have four Ulster teams in Division One and they will be ahead of us in the thinking for honours and that is understandable. It's up to us to go out and prove ourselves."

"We have to keep our heads and work hard. Our priority will be to try to get out of Division Three and this will certainly not be a straightforward exercise."

Armagh will meet Tipperary in their first league game at the end of January and before then McKeever is hopeful that his team will have made some form of impact in the O'Fiaich Cup and indeed in the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup.

"All the way through the league last year we were missing maybe eight or nine players and that took its toll on us, but since then a number of younger players have come through and the experience they have gained will stand to them now going into 2015," states McKeever.

"They got a taste of championship action this year and I think they will be hungry to do even better next year so that will be a plus-factor. This will help to make the team environment even more competitive and that has to be a good thing"

And he is convinced that new boss McGeeney has the credentials to take Armagh forward.

"Everyone knows what Kieran brings to the table. If you're not putting the hard yards in and producing the goods, he won't be too long in letting you know that.

"I think that's the way to have it and every player is fully aware of the situation. If you can't deliver then you won't be part of this Armagh set-up," adds McKeever.

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