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McGeeney's different viewpoint is set to give new direction

By Declan Bogue

It was with a grin that he said it, but when asked about Kieran McGeeney's presence in the stands rather than the sideline during Sunday's upcoming Ulster Championship clash, full -back Charlie Vernon broke out the rib-tickler and quipped: "He might just have to shout that bit louder if he is shouting from the stands."

As a result of his 12-week ban arising out of incidents during their league match with Antrim, McGeeney will not be permitted to take his usual place along the sideline. This is considered punishment by the GAA authorities, but there is a growing number that feel it will enhance Armagh's prospects.

At a recent chat night ahead of the Ulster Championship, McGeeney's former team mate Oisín McConville was asked what he thought about some of the negative coverage of McGeeney, and if the sideline ban was a sign of a man struggling.

"In a lot of ways," McConville answered, "I think it will help him. It will take him away out of the emotion and the noise and he can make decisions in a bit of peace."

In Pairc Esler, the 2002 All-Ireland winning captain is likely to take a vantage point in the upper press box, away from the maddening crowd and the panic along a sideline. To memory, this will be the first time he has been detached from the action this way, purposely or through suspension.

If there is a recurring criticism of McGeeney, it is that he is not sharp enough in making changes along the line. In Armagh's final league game, they left far too much space for Tipperary's Michael Quinlivan and Conor Sweeney to exploit.

For the final 25 minutes of that game, McGeeney put Ciaran McKeever into a sweeper role that dried up the supply lines to Sweeney and Quinlivan, who had grabbed 2-1 in the first half. Afterwards, he acknowledged he had left it too late to introduce his veteran defender.

Choosing to shield yourself on the sideline has been something Mickey Harte in particular, Brian Cody and Jim McGuinness were excellent at.

With the belief that all the coaching was done on the training field and that it was up to the players to put it into practise on the pitch, Harte was particularly Zen-like in his All-Ireland winning era.

McGuinness and Cody were like that too, but when things started going wrong for all three, they became gradually more demonstrative and irritated by referees.

Armagh's Championship preparations haven't been altered in any case, according to Vernon, who when asked how they were coping without McGeeney, again kept it light with; "I haven't noticed him gone yet! He has been at all the trainings I have been to.

"Listen, the impact of that hasn't been felt yet, really. But as players we just concentrate on our own game, we leave that to everybody else to comment on."

A new breed of manager has come along and, using the example of other sports, have embraced sitting in the stands. While at Fermanagh, Peter Canavan perched himself in the John Vesey Stand to gain a better view of the team shape and tactical switches.

Stephen Rochford of Mayo is another that will use it while Conor Counihan of Cork was perhaps the first to consciously make that decision of taking that vantage point.

The coolest decision-maker in the GAA is Dublin manager Jim Gavin. He either sits in the soft seats beside the subs and among his backroom team, or on a seat at sideline level, which must actually be the worst possible view of the action.

Not everyone can do this. Asked once about his own demeanour on the touchline, then-Cavan manager Val Andrews said "Ultimately, you have to coach as you are a person. You can't be who you aren't."

Kieran McGeeney finds himself in a novel position. Detachment is not his natural demeanour. How he reacts will be a fascination.

Belfast Telegraph

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