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Homing in on a win is the goal for McGeeney

 

Away day: Kieran McGeeney eyes a Newry bonus
Away day: Kieran McGeeney eyes a Newry bonus
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Armagh may have been forced to surrender home advantage for Sunday's important Allianz Football League Division Two encounter against Clare but manager Kieran McGeeney is not unduly concerned.

Indeed, McGeeney is rather more worried about his team's failure to close out last weekend's game against Kildare which yielded just one point for them instead of the two that they had badly wanted.

Now they must go in against a Clare side at Pairc Esler, Newry that put up a gutsy show before going under to Donegal at the weekend.

Armagh are sacrificing home advantage as a punishment for breaking training regulations before the start of last year's All-Ireland Championship.

Laois, Waterford and Wexford were other counties that were similarly sanctioned in an investigation that originally involved 17 counties.

Armagh travelled to Portugal for warm-weather training during a prohibited period and now pay the penalty for this.

It was thought that Dublin might also face sanction after their footballers travelled to France during the same period but the All-Ireland champions insisted at the time that the trip did not involve training and was, in fact, a historical pursuit.

Be that as it may, McGeeney is strongly focused on seeing his side collect the two points which he feels they need if they are to mount a sustainable promotion challenge.

"We're going in against a Clare side that have shown they are more than useful," insists McGeeney.

"They beat Down in the league at Newry last year so they won't be uncomfortable at this venue.

"For our part, we have to improve on our finishing. "

"Up until the point at which we met Clare in the All-Ireland qualifiers last year they were the best side we had come up against."

In that match, Clare were leading by one point as added time beckoned but a late four-point surge helped to take Armagh to what at one stage appeared an unlikely victory.

"I think this showed the calibre of Clare and they are getting even better," insists McGeeney.

Rian O'Neill and Joe McElroy are pushing for starting places on Sunday although McGeeney is unlikely to make too many changes as he bids to formulate a settled side. Both O'Neill and McElroy were introduced as substitutes against Kildare and could be in line for more game time.

Jason Duffy is also pushing strongly for more recognition having come off the bench against Tyrone in the Dr McKenna Cup final and against Kildare.

But Armagh are still without Andrew Murnin, Ethan Rafferty and Paul Hughes.

"Obviously these are players who have been out for some time and you would like to see them back but you have to be patient. There is no doubt that there are boys pushing for places and that's good because Division Two is very competitive and we need as many people on board as possible," insists McGeeney.

Rory Grugan, Jamie Clarke and Stefan Campbell formed a lively full-forward line against Kildare but will require to be provided with even better quality possession if they are to flourish against Clare.

And it's not just in terms of the scoring stakes alone that McGeeney is keen to see an improvement this weekend.

"I thought against Kildare we did not help ourselves by giving the ball away very easily even when we were not under pressure at times," he points out.

"Obviously this is something that can sometimes happen but we have to be aware of that and tighten up on it.

"There wasn't much between Clare and Donegal last weekend so we certainly know what to expect on Sunday.

"Everyone knows that in Division Two all teams are capable of taking points off each other.

"I believe that Armagh are capable of holding their own in there but they have got to show that they can do this.

"We know from playing Clare last summer that they have a really class forward line and we are aware that we will have our work cut out for us no matter what way you look at it."

In an ironic twist, Armagh must go back to Pairc Esler later this year to face Down in an Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final tie.

But, as McGeeney contends, that is going to be a story for another day.

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