Derry are a top three team says McGeeney

By Shaun Casey

DERRY are still among the main contenders for Sam Maguire says Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney, despite the Oakleaf County suffering back-to-back championship defeats to Donegal and Galway.

Armagh make the journey to Celtic Park this weekend having recovered from their Ulster final defeat to Donegal as they bounced back with a five-point victory over Westmeath to kickstart their All-Ireland campaign with a win.

There are two huge points available in Derry this weekend and McGeeney believes the Orchard County will have to be on top of their game to get anything from the encounter.

“We had Division Three champions (Westmeath), we’re going to face a Division One now side, and we’ve probably been in between those two teams,” said the 2002 All-Ireland winning captain. “We know it’s a huge ask, there’s not much point in seeing anything different.

“Derry are one of the top three teams in the country. They’re going to come with a point to prove, especially at home. We know we’re going to have to be at our very best to get a result there, but that’s what I’m hoping the boys will do.”

McGeeney was pleased with how Armagh came through that opening round test, especially given how close Westmeath ran them last year.

“We take each game as it comes and all we worried about was Westmeath in front of us in round one. We knew from last year (when Armagh won by one point) how they went through the group.

“Maybe we could have made it a wee bit easier on ourselves because they missed a couple of chances, but all in all I still think it was a decent performance.

“We’ve played Westmeath coming up through the divisions and we know they’ve all got really good footballers. Whether it’s (John) Heslin, (Ronan) O’Toole, (Ronan) Wallace, (Sam) McCartan, they’ve got quality players.

“You might be a division above them, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot. I’d say outside of the top four or five teams in the country, it’s all fairly even elsewhere.

“I know Dessie (Dolan) well and Jason (Sherlock) is in with them, so I knew they were going to be well organised. I’m very happy with the way we controlled the game at the start of the second half, they really pushed on. We probably should have been able to make it a wee bit easier on ourselves.”

Check out our latest edition of Gaelic Lives that looks ahead to Sunday’s clash through the eyes of Benny Heron and Paul Hearty. We also look at the other Ulster teams in the race for Sam Maguire.

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