Armagh delighted to test themselves against the best

ONE swallow doesn’t make a summer was the overriding message from Armagh assistant manager Jim McCorry as a buoyant Orchard county squad prepare for Saturday’s long trip to Mayo.

The side recorded their most impressive victory of the Kieran McGeeney era last weekend as they steamrolled Monaghan in the second half of their Clones encounter, but McCorry has said that they must aim to raise the bar further at MacHale Park in their round three Qualifier clash.

The Lurgan native did, however, say that it was satisfying to see Kieran McGeeney receive some plaudits given that criticisms are often quick to arrive when things aren’t going to plan in Armagh.

“People don’t see the work that goes on behind the scenes in county football,” said McCorry.

“I’ve been there as a county manager twice (Armagh and Down) and I know the work that has to go in.

“Kieran puts in incredible work on and off the field. He probably wouldn’t like me saying this, but the man just gets on with it. He doesn’t complain about it, he doesn’t look for media attention.

“In fact he asks me to speak to the media. He spoke to the media after the Cavan game because we lost that game and he didn’t want to put me in front of everybody after a loss. That’s the type of guy he is.

“I think the players were delighted for him, they would have felt that they won that match for him.

“They may have felt they had let him down and the county down by not taking scores in certain games. It’s great for the players to get that reward too.

“It’s only temporary though, that was last week. You have got that reward but if you want more then you have to raise the bar higher for Mayo.”
Monaghan away followed by Mayo away, the Qualifier draw hasn’t been too kind to Armagh – but you won’t hear anyone from their camp complaining.

“Listen, the players will be buzzing with that draw,” said McCorry.

“The fact is that they are playing another Division One side, they’re playing one of the top three teams in the country.

“Players rise to that sort of challenge. They’ll be delighted to get another big draw.

“I have to say though that it would be nice for Kieran McGeeney to get a wee bit of break and get home advantage for a change.

“We have had to travel a lot in recent years and this a four-hour hike for our supporters. It’s disappointing from that point of view but someone was always going to have to travel.

“We’re really looking forward to this one, as we were for the Monaghan match. If you want to learn, you learn from the top teams.”

Lessons certainly were learned going into the Monaghan match last weekend.

Poor shooting and an inability to hold onto a lead had cost Armagh dearly throughout the season as they missed out on promotion to Division One and a spot in the Ulster final.

Neither of those problems showed up at St Tiernach’s Park and the 2-17 to 1-12 win was the first time Armagh had defeated Division One opposition in the championship since their Qualifier win over Tyrone in 2014.

“The fact that it was in Monaghan and it was in their backyard added not so much pressure, but a bit of impetus to the game,” McCorry continued.

“You look at what happened in a few league games and the Cavan game with leads slipping, people got headlines from it and that’s understandable.

“The players were determined to try and avoid that again and we kept Monaghan to 1-2 in the second half with the goal coming in the 65th minute or something from a deflected shot.

“Against Down and in the Cavan game we maybe played back a wee bit and we were caught out. You didn’t see that against Monaghan.

“That will be heartening for the players. They played really well throughout and they finished strongly.”

Armagh could be without defenders James Morgan and Ryan Kennedy for the game but they’re hoping that Andrew Murnin’s hamstring issue was just a spasm.

Morgan and Kennedy were unable to feature at Clones while Rian O’Neill and Patrick Burns were unable to train in the lead up to the game due to illness. Both recovered in time to play with O’Neill grabbing the crucial two goals to secure Armagh’s passage to round three.

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