Sports

Orangemen can stun Lillywhites

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

ARMAGH go into Saturday's last 12 clash against Kildare, at 7pm, in Croke Park, as underdogs but certainly not also rans.
Orchard boss Kieran McGeeney brought the Lillywhites to an All-Ireland semi-final in 2010, where they were a Benny Coulter goal away from reaching the final.
At the start of the season McGeeney set the target of reaching the last eight of the All-Ireland Championship and that goal hasn't changed.
Kildare have achieved what Armagh planned under McGeeney by reaching rising from Division Three to Division One of the National League.
Kildare had a successful National League finishing second behind Galway in Division Two and thus promoted to Division One, winning five out of their seven games.
In the Leinster Championship, they beat Laois and Meath in the quarter and semi-finals respectively, before losing out to Dublin in the Leinster final. In Armagh's case, they suffered the agony of an injury time defeat to Tipperary which cost them promotion back to Division Two. Their Ulster final quarter-final only deepened the dark mood felt in Armagh as they suffered a disappointing defeat to arch rivals, Down. They significantly, however, rallied in the Qualifiers with gutsy and resilient wins over Fermanagh and Westmeath. In the Qualifier Round 3B they 'came good' as they turned a four-point deficit at one stage into a two point defeat over a confident Tipperary on their home soil.
While Armagh will be buoyant and confident going into the Kildare game, the Lily whites will also be extremely confident and confident given how well they played against Dublin and their standard of play in that game will serve as a warning to Armagh not to underestimate them.
In the Dublin game they never wilted and Dublin only really hurt them in the first five or six minutes of the first half and the first 10 minutes of the second. In the first 10 minutes Kildare leaked 2-3 to 0-1 but over the 67-odd minutes of play, Kildare only lost by 0-20 to 1-16, that's a single point difference.
The game will certainly be an emotional reunion for Kieran McGeeney as he cut his managerial teeth with Kildare from 2010 to 2016 when he was sensationally dumped out by a single vote at a county board meeting. To a degree, the Lily whites thrived under Geezer reaching the All-Ireland quarter-finals in five consecutive seasons under his tenure. Sadly, they only reached one All-Ireland semi-final, losing out to Down in 2010, but his stay in Kildare was still seen as successful given that Kildare had established themselves as a top flight team.
Ollie Lyons, Emmet Bolton and Eamon O'Callaghan are the only players of Geezer's squad still involved today with Cian O'Neill's squad.
This season Kildare will hurt Armagh if allowed to play their pacy, expressive and expansive game, ideally suited to Croke Park. They are a very young team who are superbly conditioned (Armagh's Jason McGahan who worked with Cian O'Neill in Kerry is part of the back-room staff) and are very tall and skilful.
Kildare are vulnerable in the earlier stages of each half seemingly unable to settle into rhythm quickly - a situation Armagh should consider strongly by forcing them to have to chase a lead. Goal chances against Dublin and other teams this year have gone a-begging as they insist on blasting at a good height for the 'keeper to dive for on straight at the 'keeper.
Unlike Dublin and Jamie Clarke, they are not noted for low volleys passed to the corner of the net - a goalkeeper's nightmare.
They have five players who Armagh really must pay attention to. Their centre-half back and captain, Eoin Doyle is the epitome of Kildare's spirit. A massive leader and playmaker for his team.
Kevin Feely, their dominant midfielder, unbelievably high catcher, most accurate as their main (both feet) free taker, is a former AFL player. He is a born leader, full of confidence and style. Kildare now have a genuine inside forward line of Paddy Brophy, Daniel Flynn, and Cathal McNally who scored 1-7 between them against Dublin, and Armagh must ensure they are closely marked.
Armagh's James Morgan, Aaron McKay, Mark Shields and Charlie Vernon will have their hands full but are more than capable of doing a solid job marking Kildare's dangermen.
Kildare are, however, sweating on the availability of Eoin Doyle but he will likely play some part.
Croke Park should suit Armagh and it is the perfect arena for Crossmaglen's Jamie Clarke play expressive football. Rory Grugan has steadily grown into his captaincy this season and his range of passing will suit the widths of Croke Park.
Andrew Murnin, Gavin McParland, Stefan Campbell, Ethan Rafferty and Oisin O'Neill will be expected to put in a big shift whatever stage they are introduced and if Armagh are to succeed they need all men firing on all cylinders.
Niall Grimley and Stephen Sheridan have grown stronger as the campaign progressed and if these men replace embrace any nerves they have of playing in Croke Park and get into the game then Armagh have a chance of pulling off an upset.
Last season, Armagh ended their campaign by losing the shackles in the second half but fell just short in the second game against Laois.
On Saturday if they can lose the shackles from the outset and not give away cheap frees then they have a great chance of reaching the last eight, where Tyrone or Dublin would await.

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