Tierney: Geezer may opt to rotate goalkeepers

By Shaun Casey

BENNY Tierney doesn’t envy the goalkeeping selection headache that Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney has ahead of the Ulster Championship.

With Ethan Rafferty edging back to full fitness and Blaine Hughes in fine form, McGeeney has two brilliant options to choose from.

Hughes was outstanding in the National League as the Orchard County gained promotion to Division One while Rafferty excelled in the sweeper-keeper role over the last two seasons, earning an All-Star nomination in 2022.

“It’s the selection nightmare that every manager has, not so often with goalkeepers but Blaine has been exceptional in the National League so far,” said Armagh’s 2002 All-Ireland winning goalkeeper Benny Tierney.

“He’s growing in confidence even from his last stint in goals and you couldn’t really fault him, his kick-outs have been superb. He’s only conceded two goals as well, so he’s had a wonderful National League campaign.

“Ethan had a brilliant couple of years in goals and possession is nine tenths of the law and Blaine has the number one jersey. He’s done very little wrong and a lot of it has been positive with him.

“You’d probably think he’d start Blaine, but Ethan offers something going forward in an attacking avenue that maybe Blaine doesn’t offer.

“From a goalkeeping perspective, Blaine is a more natural keeper than Ethan but it’s a tough call and I don’t envy Geezer, I can see the merits of both of them to be honest.

“A lot of it will come down to Ethan’s fitness as well because Ethan doesn’t play as a natural goalkeeper, Ethan plays as an outfield goalkeeper, and you can’t fault him in any of the games. He had a great impact and influence in a lot of the games going forward.

“It’s the strange dynamic where he does give you a lot going forward and supporting the attack and being a link man whereas Blaine is a more natural goalkeeper but there’s that dynamic where Geezer might have to switch for games and change it around.

“It’s a good dilemma to have, we have two top class goalkeepers. The fact is nowadays that you can mix and match goalkeepers and it’ll be a tough call for Geezer to make.”

Rafferty’s transition from midfielder to goalkeeper leaves the possibility of the Grange clubman returning to an outfield position, but Tierney, a former club and county colleague of the current Armagh boss, doesn’t see that as an option.

“I don’t see that happening in the fact that Ethan is coming back from a long injury,” added the Mullaghbawn man. “Ethan, he looks so lean and very fit to play that role of a roving goalkeeper but I’m not so sure if it would be enough for 70 minutes.

“That could be what Geezer is thinking too and just coming back from an injury, he mightn’t have that fitness that he’s had in the last two years and personally I don’t think he’ll play Ethan out the field.”

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