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McGeeney has sights firmly on future success

By Declan Bogue

He might be forgiven by the footballing public for having a ‘what if’ moment this weekend, but in the eyes of Kieran McGeeney, no good can come of imagining if Armagh had only closed out the deal in their quarter-final with Donegal.

The newly-appointed Orchard manager was in Croke Park yesterday for his first engagement with the media after succeeding Paul Grimley, and naturally the conversation asked what kind of chance Armagh might have stood of taking down Dublin.

He wasn't having any of it though.

“You can't say just because we got close to Donegal that we are going to give Dublin their fill of it. It doesn't work like that,” McGeeney explained.

“Even if (Diarmuid) Connolly had scored the goal it would have been lights out, nine points would have been too much to pull back because Connolly and Flynn were on fire. They couldn't be stopped.”

He paid tribute to what makes Kerry such a formidable outfit, but highlighted the bizarre lop-sided nature of the All-Ireland series when he said: “Kerry, they have brilliant players. But if you are guaranteed a quarter-final place every year you have a chance. Cork and Kerry are going to be in a quarter-final most years. Guaranteed.”

Pointing out their experience of the Croke Park stage, McGeeney added: “What happens out there is their ability to make the right decisions at the right time. It might come in the first five minutes, it might come in the 15th minute, it doesn't matter.

“Other teams when they do it they could lose by eight or nine points. But making the right decision at the right time is the key to any successful sport.”

McGeeney, who married a Kerry lady in recent times, also praised the footballer of the moment in James O'Donoghue.

“When you add in O'Donoghue, I think he is class. He has excitement about a footballer than you love, he doesn't look for free-kicks, he doesn't lie back. He just goes at people,” he said.

McGeeney has never been shy in disputing points of footballing aesthetics, and is particularly keen to stand up for his coaching peers and their work in developing the game in many tactical directions.

Therefore, he feels that true appreciation of this Donegal team may not be theirs, even if they lift a second Sam Maguire.

“No. Tyrone never got it and they got three,” he said. “It's just the way sport is. People have different opinions and it can be fed or it can be taken down.”

Therefore, he feels that Harte's Tyrone, this current Donegal team and even Pat Gilroy's more defensive-minded Dublin team of 2011 will always labour under a misconception.

“The whole point when you have a team to manage is to get it at a point that is greater than it should, and that’s the sign of a great manager. All of them have done that, they’ve looked at the weakness and closed them up,” said the former Kildare supremo.

“Gilroy did it after getting hammered (against Kerry in the 2009), he made his defence resolute, unbelievable and one of the best in the league. McGuinness did it with Donegal and then Harte did the same with Tyrone. They all did it in different ways and Kerry do it the same way.

“Some of the teams choose not to do it but every team has to have an offensive and defensive plan and sort of be able to move quickly from one to the other, and they’ve (Donegal) been the best at it in the past couple of years.”

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