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Old friends to turn foes for All-Ireland qualifiers bid

By John Campbell

Two members of the Armagh half-back line that helped their county win the All-Ireland title for the only time in its history in 2002 will come face to face in what promises to be a fascinating battle of managerial wits on Saturday.

Kieran McGeeney, currently under fire following Kildare's 4-16 to 1-9 drubbing by Dublin in the Leinster senior football championship, and his Louth counterpart Aidan O'Rourke, now overseeing a recovery mission in the wake of the Wee County's submission to Wexford, will send their teams into battle at Newbridge hoping to achieve further qualifier progress.

It's a match that neither man really wants, of course. Both had been strongly focused on Leinster championship success but the manner in which their teams were expelled from the provincial series served to emphasise the pressures that accompany their roles in the hot seat.

McGeeney in particular has been feeling the heat recently and this has nothing to do with the current climactic conditions.

Rather, it centres on Kildare's inability to pursue their quest for championship glory with any level of consistency. Nor does former Orchard County skipper McGeeney mince his words his assessing his team's dismal performance against the Dubs.

"It was sloppiness that cost us the game," he states, "When you make mistakes against a team like Dublin, they will cut through you and that's what they did to us. The first goal in particular that we gave away could have been avoided and after that the wheels came off the wagon."

While Dublin are perceived to be operating on a different planet to most other teams this term, McGeeney nevertheless is adamant that his team contributed to their own downfall.

"We could not make contact with their players when they were on the ball and that did not help our cause," he admits.

On Saturday, the Lily Whites manager will appeal to his team's pride and prestige in the hope of eliciting a cohesive performance against a Louth side that ended Antrim's season by despatching them from the qualifiers.

Johnny Doyle, Emmet Bolton, Peter Kelly and Eoghan O'Flaherty will again be in the vanguard of a Kildare side which has yet to win a major trophy in McGeeney's six years in charge.

Louth boss O'Rourke, whose team looked to be on course for a surge into the Leinster final when they beat Laois by ten points, encountered a morale-sapping banana skin in the form of Wexford before picking themselves up and dusting themselves down against Antrim.

Goalkeeper Neil Gallagher misses Saturday's encounter as he was red-carded against the Saffrons but Paddy Keenan, Ronan Carroll, Shane Lennon, Brian White and Ciaran Byrne can inspire the border county.

O'Rourke acknowledges, though, that they will have to step up on their performance against Antrim.

"Any day you get over the line in a qualifier match by six points has to be a good day but realistically, Louth will be a bigger obstacle for us and we have to be prepared for this," points out Dromintee native O'Rourke.

Belfast Telegraph


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