Paddy Burns: We want to win it for Geezer

By Shaun Casey

THIS season marks Kieran McGeeney’s 10th in charge of his native county and also his 40th involved in the inter-county game. McGeeney first pulled on an Armagh shirt at u-14 level in 1984 and has given a lot to the cause since then.

‘Geezer’, as he’s more affectionately known, helped Armagh end a 17-year wait for an Ulster title in 1999 and ended up finishing his playing career with six Ulster titles and an All-Ireland crown from 2002.

Now as boss, McGeeney is hoping to guide the Orchard County to the Anglo Celt against Donegal this Sunday at Clones, ending a 16-year wait for the trophy. The players, it’s clear, would love to deliver that prize for their manager, and that includes experienced defender Paddy Burns.

“I think you always want to go out and win something for him because we put in a lot of time,” said the Burren clubman who made his Armagh debut under Kieran McGeeney’s watch in 2018.

“Me and Paddy McBrearty were talking there (at the Ulster final press event) and I asked him would he ever consider going into county management, and the two of us both agreed ‘absolutely not’.

“It’s such a difficult job. It takes so much time, so much effort, and I think for the time he (McGeeney) has put into us, the stuff he gives us, how well he looks after us, the least we can do is try to give him an Ulster title, and we will be doing our best to do that.”

McGeeney was still a player when Armagh last reached back-to-back Ulster finals and Burns, who has started all 10 of Armagh’s league and championship matches so far this season, is hoping last year’s experience can help this time around.

While Armagh fans have sour memories of leaving Clones 12 months ago with another penalty shootout having gone against their team, the players on the field will surely have learnt from that experience in terms of everything that comes with an Ulster final.

“I would hope so. Last year was the start of this new set-up, in terms of only having two weeks of a lead-in. So, we have had all of that already, and we’re used to it,” added Burns.

“Personally, I was injured last year, and I wasn’t in the reckoning, so it’s new to me to an extent, but I have had enough games now that I’m well used to this kind of thing. Experience can only be a good thing.

“The bus into Clones, Gardaí getting the traffic out of the way, seeing the crowds. Any experience of that atmosphere you get sets you up well for the next time. But these Donegal fellas haven’t been away for too long, and they have plenty of experience of it themselves. So, I’d say we’re both on an even keel at this stage for that kind of thing.”

Armagh had to squeeze past Down to make it to the decider in a much tougher game than a lot of people anticipated. After blowing Fermanagh away in the opening round, most pundits expected the same in the semi-final, but it took a late Jason Duffy effort to seal the deal.

“We weren’t delighted about it; I can tell you that,” explained Burns of Armagh’s most recent display. “It was one of those games, it was difficult. Down, to their credit, went out with a game-plan and executed it very well and almost perfectly, it almost came off for them.

“If you look back on it, in the first five or 10 minutes, if we had of chipped over a few more scores where we tried to force the last pass or had poor wides, we might have opened a of a gap and changed how the game looked and it would have become a little bit more open.

“That didn’t happen and then it became that bit of a dogfight. Were we happy with the performance? No, we didn’t do a lot of the basic things that we are good at.

“However, we pulled the game out in the last five or 10 minutes which is something we haven’t done in a while. In a tight game not only did we go and get the equaliser, but we got the winner.

“We committed what you might call a smart foul by the sideline for them to have their chance to draw but it was a very difficult kick.

“I think all in all, you have to take the positives from that game too and that was that we closed out a tight game.”

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