Croke Park will suit Armagh’s style of play says McCorry

By Shaun Casey

FORMER Armagh player, manager and coach Jim McCorry believes that the wide-open spaces of Croke Park will suit his county this weekend as they take on Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final.

McCorry was a coach under Kieran McGeeney as recently as 2020 and spent three years in the management team. He suggests that taking on the Kingdom in HQ could potentially play into Armagh’s hands.

McCorry praised their defensive solidarity and suggests Jack O’Connor’s men could struggle to break them down.

Armagh have only conceded two goals in the championship, both against Down, and have kept five clean sheets in a row.

“I think one of the factors that is really good for Armagh is playing in Croke Park,” said McCorry, looking forward to Armagh’s first All-Ireland semi-final since 2005. “The big open pitch really suits their style of play; Armagh are fantastic on the turnover.

“I think Kerry still seem to be really struggling with a more packed defence that puts pressure on the ball, that gets turnovers and hits them on the break.

“This year Armagh have got the balance right in terms of what they’ve been doing (between defence and attack) and playing at Croke Park will suit Armagh. Kerry can try and break us down defensively but I think that’s oing to be difficult for them.

“We saw how hard it was for a really good forward line in Roscommon (in the quarter-final), they had great difficulties breaking Armagh down and I think Kerry will have the same problem.

“There is a really good opportunity in this game to utilise the space in Croke Park and Armagh will have to make sure that they have that strong bench coming in at the right time. That’s been the pattern so far this year and I don’t see any reason why there would be any change now.”

McCorry went on to praise the squad depth that Kieran McGeeney now has at his disposal, with a number of players coming back from injuries this season, including Niall Grimley and Oisin O’Neill, while Paddy Burns returned to the starting line-up for the quarter-final.

Armagh will once again be without Ciaran Mackin and Conor O’Neill, who both suffered season-ending knocks during the group stages, but other than that, they should have a full hand to pick from.

“It’s great to see Paddy back. His work rate for that team, his man-marking, his reading of the game, he’s absolutely superb,” continued McCorry, who managed Burns at Burren last year. “You see the likes of Grimley coming back from a horrific injury too.

“It’s great to see those boys that have been carrying long-term injuries making such a great impact.. They’ve had injuries that could define the rest of their sporting life,so it’s great to see them coming back.

“Oisin is coming on as part of that really strong bench that we have now. He’ a bit of a Ciaran Kilkenny in my view, where he’s like a midfield general or a centre-half forward general, controlling the game and never wastes a ball.

“He can take a score as good as anybody else in that team, he sets the play, he’s always working hard for the team as well so it’s great to see him coming back.

“(Aaron) McKay in full-back has been outstanding this year. He had a really, really bad time with Covid, lost loads of weight and his form dropped considerably, obviously with the physical impact of that.

“He’s now looks stronger again, he’s reading the game brilliantly. He takes no crap from anyone, controlling that defensive square. So those are all big positives, and they need all those players to try and move on.”

On the strength of Armagh’s subs bench, McCorry added, “The guys that are coming in from the bench, and this is a big, big factor that you can see in that Armagh team, it doesn’t matter where you play.

“There are the guys that won the (Intermediate Club) All-Ireland this year with Cullyhanna, the likes of Aidan Nugent, Ross McQuillan, Jason Duffy. Those guys would have been starting players in the previous team and they’re coming on now and doing the job.

“Yes, obviously they’ll be disappointed that they’re not going to start the game. ‘Soupy’ (Stefan Campbell) more so than most probably deserves a starting place, but the impact they’re making when they come in and the pace they bring to the game, that’s been the defining difference this year for me.”

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