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McGeeney can come up trumps this time but it won't be easy: McKeever

 

Tough task: Ciaran McKeever sounds a warning to Armagh and Kieran McGeeney (right)
Tough task: Ciaran McKeever sounds a warning to Armagh and Kieran McGeeney (right)
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Former Armagh player Ciaran McKeever knows what it is like to lead a side to All-Ireland success.

Fifteen years have elapsed since the St Patrick's, Cullyhanna clubman skippered his county to the All-Ireland Under-21 title when they beat Mayo in the final at the then Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan.

Among the first to congratulate McKeever on his team's feat was current Mayo senior player Andy Moran, who played a part in his county's Allianz League title triumph last month.

While Moran continues to lend an experienced edge to James Horan's side, McKeever stepped down from the inter-county senior arena two years ago and has assumed the role of Armagh minor team boss.

Although his side is now out of the running for the provincial title following last Saturday's defeat to Donegal, he is hopeful that Kieran McGeeney's senior team can land what would be a first Ulster Championship win under the latter's baton when they meet Down on Sunday.

"I feel Armagh have developed their game over this past couple of seasons," pointed out McKeever.

"People were saying that they could not play against blanket defences but I think the learning curve they have charted over this past while will stand them in good stead against Down on Sunday."

"The loss to Down in Newry two years ago and that defeat to Fermanagh last year were big blows, but I think that Armagh have taken lessons on board from these experiences.

"I honestly think that they are now in a strong position going into Sunday's game."

Armagh, though, won only two of their seven matches in Division Two of the Allianz League and it's their inconsistency that leaves their fans apprehensive ahead of their Pairc Esler mission.

"I still think there is massive potential within the current Armagh squad," insisted McKeever. "It's all a question of getting the balance of the team right on the day. There are players there who will start and there are others who will be brought on with maybe twenty minutes to go hopefully to finish off the job."

"The dilemma Kieran McGeeney has ahead of him is getting his selection right, but he knows his players better than anyone and I'm sure he will come up trumps."

McGeeney, meanwhile, will have rather more options at his disposal when he comes to settle on his line-up tonight.

"Armagh must be wary, they must not be under any illusion that this will be anything other than a tough task," cautioned McKeever.

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