Ex-players can help nurture new crop: Tierney
Armagh 2002 All-Ireland winning goalkeeper Benny Tierney is urging former inter-county players from across the province to lend their support to nurturing fresh talent under the Academy banner which is currently proving to be a clear pathway to progress.
Far from being parochial, Tierney holds up the Orchard County Academy as an example of a mechanism for developing young players on a streamlined basis.
And he makes it abundantly clear that what passed for moulding talent even up to recent years is now past its sell-by date.
"The days of taking sixty or seventy young players to a trial and maybe picking something like twenty from these are gone," insists Tierney.
"We want to get a rounded approach rather than a splintered sort of a gather-up. We have schools, we have clubs and we have the county board here in Armagh and they are singing from the same hymn sheet led by the county manager Kieran McGeeney and people like Paul McGrane, Denis Hollywood, Ger Reid and Ciaran McKeever."
School principal Tierney believes that former players, particularly those who have gained considerable experience in their county colours, can play a big part in ultimately improving their senior team's fortunes.
"We are extremely fortunate here in Armagh that players who have been successful have not just taken their honours and rode off into the sunset," states Tierney.
"I always feel that in a way we were very lucky to achieve what we did and I'm very proud of the fact that we have so many ex-county players involved in our Academy.
"I would like to see this proving the case in every county in Ulster. I feel there are many former county players who would have something to offer."
Tierney believes that football in Ulster overall can improve if there is added input from past players, who he maintains have a great deal to offer.
"I think initiatives such as an Academy within a county certainly point in the right direction," adds Tierney.
"You look at the counties that are and have been successful and you come to appreciate how they have nourished their under-age talent."
"I would go so far as to say that Armagh are not far away from being on a roll, and that applies to some other counties as well.
"There are new players who have been blooded in our senior county team lately who may have been new names as far as supporters are concerned, but the fact of the matter is they learned their trade in the Academy before stepping into the spotlight.
"I would love to see this being the case everywhere because then gaelic football would surely thrive."
While Tierney accepts that players are currently leaving county squads and gates are declining, he is nevertheless passionate in his observations on just what any degree of success can mean to a county.
"Listen, I am sure of this - people still want to get out there and support their county, you can take that from me," he stresses.
"Take Armagh, for instance. We have had a few good years and we showed in that period we are one of the best supported sides."
"But that just does not apply to us. Look at teams like Tyrone, Donegal, Monaghan and others and the support that they enjoy.
"The theory 'sing when you're winning' still holds good but there is no doubt that if teams produce the goods the fans will be behind them."