Motivated McGeeney taking on familiar foe in Kildare

By Shaun Casey

KILDARE gave Kieran McGeeney his big break into inter-county management, but this Sunday, a win against his former side will force the Lilywhites further towards relegation while pushing Armagh a step closer to promotion.

The opening two rounds couldn’t have gone any differently for Armagh and Kildare, who sit at opposite ends of the Division Two table. Armagh succeeded against previous Leinster opponents, beating both Louth and Meath.

Kildare, on the other hand, faltered against Ulster opposition in their first two rounds, losing to both Cavan and Fermanagh to sit joint bottom of the division alongside Cork with nothing to show for their efforts.

But ‘Geezer’ has been around too long to get sucked in by safe bets and fires a warning shot to anyone assuming Armagh’s clash with Kildare, in the neutral venue of Netwatch Cullen Park, Carlow, is a foregone conclusion.

“I was just reminding people, the last time Kildare went up to Division One (2012), I was with them. We lost our first two league games, then won the next five, won Division Two and went up.

“You have these two games and that’s all you have. We’re delighted to have them, but it would be very early in the year to be thinking anything other than its four points.”

Armagh’s one-point win over Louth in the first round of the league was far from convincing, but their 12-point domination against Meath in round two was much more pleasing on the eye for the large Orchard fan base in attendance.

McGeeney’s side will no doubt be keen to get back among the best of Division One by the time the league campaign comes to a close, having lost their spot in the topflight last season, but it’s perhaps a bit too early to be planning that far ahead.

The margins at the top level are very fine, as McGeeney points out, and the 2002 All-Ireland winning captain hopes that the heartache of last season can act as motivation for 2024 rather than an emotional hangover.

Following their relegation to Division Two, the Orchard County suffered some tough championship defeats, namely the Ulster final against Derry and the All-Ireland quarter-final to Monaghan, both lost on penalties.

“I think we have a good team, and we can compete with the best,” added McGeeney. “But when you’re at that top level, there’s very little between the top teams.

“The ones that are really good are just good at those fine margins, coming into the last 15 minutes, the Dublins, the Kerrys, Derry last year too.

“We haven’t been far away for three years, but you have to work down to those fine margins.

“I’m hoping it’s more of a motivation and a hangover. They’re a great bunch of lads and they’ve started to understand over the last number of years it’s them that cross the white line. They make the decisions.

“They’re doing well at the minute, but the big thing is the next three or four games and whether they get that consistency.”

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