Kieran McGeeney keen to move spotlight around Armagh team

Manager also hails Ciarán Mackin’s showing after Rian O’Neil took star billing

Kieran McGeeney’s assertion that Tyrone will be “sore from the last time, will want to set that straight” may or may not deflect fresh expectations going into Sunday’s rendezvous at the Athletics Grounds. Either way there is already fresh attention on Armagh football in 2022.

After last Saturday’s five-point win over Dublin, also condemning them to back-to-back defeats in Croke Park for first time since 2010, Armagh host Tyrone in round two of the Allianz Football League three weeks after their McKenna Cup meeting at the same venue, when Armagh beat the All-Ireland champions by three points.

Central to that win was Rian O'Neill, who chipped in some late scores to earn the man-of-the-match award, just like he did against Dublin after scoring 1-4 in his Croke Park debut. With that performance O'Neill was also named GAA Player of the Week, as he assisted in another 1-2, also laying down something of a marker with his early challenge on Dublin's John Small.

For McGeeney, any fresh attention on O’Neill – a nephew of Oisín McConville – was duly deflected too, the Armagh manager quick to assess the overall team performance in the aftermath of the Dublin win. Most of the Armagh team were making their Croke Park debut, some given the first league start.


“I thought he was impressive, Rian is a great player but there were other players there,” said McGeeney. “I thought Ciarán Mackin, for his first time in a county jersey was exceptional in midfield, he was outstanding. Some of the tackles he made in the last line of defence were top class.

“That’s the hard thing about being a great player for Rian, you expect that from him. But for a new player that’s never wore his county jersey before to step in at Croke Park in midfield against a phenomenal team and put in a performance that the likes of Ciarán Mackin did.”

McGeeney heaped praise on his replacements, too, beginning with Ross McQuillan, while Stephen Campbell, Niall Grimley and Greg McCabe all added scores.

“All of them would have been starters last year and they could be starters again this year, they did very well. It’s just unfortunate for Ross, who’s been playing very well. He just hurt his hamstring, it’s been at him a bit. We feel we have quality on the bench and hopefully that will help us in the coming week with those knocks and bangs.

“We had seven starters from last year sitting on the bench, we’re trying new things. For me it’s just to take one game at a time and try build up enough points to end up where you should be.”

Meanwhile, the Cork county board have said the management of both the football and hurling teams were "consulted throughout the process" of taking two championships matches from away Páirc Uí Chaoimh, due to Ed Sheeran concerts taking place at the stadium, and refixing one for Thurles, the other for at Páirc Uí Rinn.

Sheeran is scheduled to play at the Leeside venue on April 28th and April 29th: Cork were originally due to play Clare in the Munster hurling championship on May 15th, only that game has been refixed after the Munster hurling fixtures were moved to ensure teams wouldn’t have to play on three consecutive weekends, and will now take place in FBD Semple Stadium in Thurles on May 1st.

Cork will play Kerry a week later in the Munster football championship semi-final on May 7th, refurbishment work at Páirc Uí Rinn facilitating a crowd of around 12,000.

According to the Cork county board, “the comprehensive fixture list for 2022 makes the best and most practical use available of facilities owned by Cork GAA during what will be an extremely busy period for Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

“The relevant capacity will allow us to meet the demand for tickets from all Cork supporters. The management of both the hurling and football teams have been consulted throughout the process of arranging the fixtures, and Cork GAA would like to thank them for their support.

Cork will still play Limerick in their opening Munster hurling round-robin game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on April 17th, and the venue may also host the Munster final, depending on the pairing.

Updated Munster SHC fixtures

Cork v Clare, FBD Semple Stadium, May 1st (was May 15th)
Limerick v Tipperary, TUS Gaelic Grounds, May 8th (was May 15th)
Waterford v Cork, Walsh Park, May 15th (was May 8th)
Clare v Limerick, Cusack Park, Ennis, May 15th (was May 8th)

Updated Munster SFC fixtures

Tipperary v Waterford, Fraher Field, April 30th (was May 1st)
Clare v Limerick, Cusack Park, Ennis, April 30th (was May 1st)
Cork v Kerry, t Páirc Ui Rinn, May 7th (venue confirmed/no date change)
Tipperary or Waterford v Clare or Limerick, May 14th (was May 15th)

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics