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Orchard are growing stronger so players must earn their starting place: McGeeney



Tough talk: Kieran McGeeney

Tough talk: Kieran McGeeney

�INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Tough talk: Kieran McGeeney

The return of Stefan Campbell and Jamie Clarke in particular to the Armagh football squad has triggered speculation that this could mean some of the newer players not getting as much game-time as they would like.

But manager Kieran McGeeney has moved quickly to quash such rumours, insisting that every player will be afforded the opportunity to prove their worth in the starting line-up.

Over the past two years Orchard boss McGeeney has been forced to operate without some key players for a variety of reasons including injuries, global travel and work commitments.

Now, though, the 2002 All-Ireland winning captain has assembled a squad he believes can make a bold bid for honours.

While McGeeney is pleased that Campbell and Clarke are among the high-profile players who have re-committed to the county, he is equally encouraged by the progress which several newcomers to his squad have made within a comparatively short time.

"The likes of Paddy Burns from Forkhill, Jemar Hall, Ryan McShane, Joe McElroy and Jarlath Og (Burns) are players who are just starting to come through," states McGeeney.

"People might not perhaps put these players in the same league as Stefan Campbell or Jamie Clarke or Ethan Campbell.

"But that's what we're trying to build. Everyone has to fight for their position. There are no superstars, for everyone it's the same thing and they just have to be proud to wear the jersey. And in fairness the group we have are like that. They put in a great pre-season and are pushing hard."

As his side prepare for Sunday's massive Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup semi-final against Donegal at Healy Park, Omagh (2.00pm), McGeeney is braced for what he feels will be his team's biggest challenge since their first outing against St Mary's in mid-December.

"Donegal will probably have a fuller hand to deal with on Sunday compared to how Monaghan were fixed on Wednesday night," points out McGeeney.

"You're at a different level when you're going in against Donegal. Even their second team is strong. They play with a different sort of swagger.

"They were the Ulster Champions last year and pushed every team they played in the Super8s.

"You'll even hear the Donegal players saying themselves that this is the strongest panel they've had and that's without two of their best players at this point in time in Neil Magee and Michael Murphy.

"This shows you their considerable strength in depth, I think."

Belfast Telegraph