Donegal’s Rory Gallagher not fazed by Kieran McGeeney’s comments

Dublin and Kerry not on manager’s radar ahead of Armagh clash in Ulster

“Armagh are a force now. They will be potential Ulster champions every year,” says Donegal manager Rory Gallagher. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.

“Armagh are a force now. They will be potential Ulster champions every year,” says Donegal manager Rory Gallagher. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.

 

If it was meant as a declaration of war, Rory Gallagher has refused to take the bait.

Kieran McGeeney raised a few eyebrows last week with his bold assertion that Donegal’s physicality is “not in the same ball park” as Dublin’s and Kerry’s.

The Armagh manager said he could “categorically state” the 2012 All-Ireland champions do not come close to matching the last two Sam Maguire winners in the physicality department.

Whether it was a deliberate ploy or not to send out the message that a young, emerging Armagh side will be no pushovers in the tight confines of the Athletic Grounds on Sunday, his opposite number said he didn’t believe McGeeney was trying to play mind games with Donegal.

“I don’t believe there is any agenda with what Kieran said, I don’t think he meant it that way,” said Gallagher. “I don’t know what the players think, but from my own point of view I certainly didn’t see it as an insult.

“I know Kieran quite well and he prides himself on being honest. He says what he means.

“We aren’t looking at Dublin’s or Kerry’s physicality at this point in time.

“We were only thinking about Tyrone and now Armagh. Other teams are not on our radar.”

Big stage

It’s safe to assume, however, that they’ll be going head-to-head a lot in the next few years now they’re both in charge of counties who will be challenging for silverware every year.

“I can only say that Kieran is not the picture he’s painted and he was involved in a successful Armagh set-up that worked exceptionally hard.

“People say they won a lot, but they would probably feel they should have won a lot more. He built a great squad in Kildare and now he’s doing the same with Armagh.

“Armagh are a force now. They will be potential Ulster champions every year.”

Armagh pushed Donegal all the way in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final, before late points from Michael Murphy and Paddy McBrearty saw the latter edge a one-point victory.

McGeeney has expressed concern that his team will have picked up “bad habits” playing in Division Three this year, but Gallagher says: “There’s no doubt they’d have preferred to be playing at a higher level, but we’re very aware Division Three is not a true reflection of their ability”.

Older Donegal players such as Christy Toye, Eamon McGee, Karl Lacey, Neil Gallagher and Paul Durcan are survivors of the big beatings Armagh inflicted on them in Ulster finals and an All-Ireland semi-final between 2003 and 2006.

Things came full circle for those players later in their careers, and they are now chasing a fourth Ulster in five years with one All-Ireland already safely put away.

Years of mediocrity

“Armagh were the major team in Ulster and Donegal suffered more than anyone because of them,” says Gallagher.

“They were in transition and have rebuilt, and will feel they’re heading back to the top, but we’re quite happy for others to determine where we are in the cycle of things.

“We are quite happy with what we’re seeing from the lads every night.”

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