When Kieran McGeeney’s Kildare handed out a sharp lesson to previously unbeaten Donegal at the weekend not only did they thrust themselves back into the Division Two promotion race but they ensured that Oliver Plunkett Park, Crossmaglen will be bursting at the seams when they confront Armagh on Sunday.
For ‘Geezer’, it will be his first visit as Lily Whites boss to the county which he captained to All Ireland glory in 2002. And the former Mullaghbawn clubman acknowledges the backdrop to the Orchard County contest could scarcely be more appealing.
“Armagh are like ourselves, they have four points and have their sights on a Division One place. This match is coming at a critical stage in the league and it’s absolutely vital for both teams, make no mistake about that,” insists the straight-talking McGeeney.
A few weeks ago he found himself unwittingly embroiled in controversy when violence marred Kildare’s clash with Laois in the O’Byrne Cup. A raft of suspensions followed and Kildare subsequently lost their league opener to a rampant Down side.
But since then back-to-back victories over Tipperary, who drew with Down last Saturday, and that surprisingly handsome win over Donegal have revitalised Kildare.
They are still without players like Mike Conway and Eamon Kavanagh but with last year’s skipper John Doyle back to his best form in attack, Dermot Earley and Darryl Flynn now among the top midfield duos in the country and Henry McGrillen, Damien Hendy and Emmet Bolton extremely solid defenders, McGeeney feels he has the ammunition to shoot down his native county.
But he knows Armagh’s wins over Westmeath and Laois so far, the exquisite finishing of Steven McDonnell who has scored 1-22 in three matches and their traditional defensive resolve will combine to bolster their morale for Sunday’s mission.
Meanwhile, Philip Jordan’s return to club football after hip and groin injuries is a timely boost for Tyrone boss Mickey Harte.
Jordan played for Moy at the weekend, his first game since the the All Ireland semi-final defeat by Cork in August.