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Statement issued on behalf of Armagh footballer Ciarán McKeever

"It was always my dream to represent Armagh growing up so it's with a heavy heart that I announce my retirement from inter-county football today. It has been a great honour to have been part of the Armagh squad from 2003-2017, as captain for six of those years, and this is not a decision I have arrived at lightly.

"Having met with Kieran McGeeney at the end of 2016 after undergoing two operations, I was unsure of my inter-county future but we decided to try and get the body right for one more year and I believe the time is now right to call it a day.

"I would like to thank every Armagh manager who I have worked under and all county board officials for their continued support throughout my career. Also to my club St Patrick's Cullyhanna, in particular Ciarán McConville who gave up so much of his time to develop my game. 

"My journey as a county player has been truly wonderful – it has been a privilege to have been involved with such an incredible group of footballers and I am very fortunate to have tasted the ultimate success at international, provincial and county level and captaining Armagh's U-21s to All-Ireland success in 2004 was a special highlight. 

“While always an enormous commitment, playing for Armagh was a fantastic experience and I would like to thank the many people who supported me during my career, particularly my parents Majella and Michael as well as all my family and friends.

“I was always proud to be the Armagh Rep for the Gaelic Players Association and I’d like to thank the GPA for their support and I look forward to remaining active with the players’ body in the future.

"I'd also like to thank Denis Hollywood, Armagh GAA Games and Coaching Officer, for spending endless hours with me on a one to one basis as he helped to improve my knowledge of the game and develop the skill set needed to succeed at this level. 

"I'd like to pay special thanks to Kieran McGeeney, who I always looked up to as a youngster from my days travelling to watch Armagh play. When I joined the squad in 2003, he took me under his wing and helped me develop as a player, he taught me what commitment and values were required to play for Armagh and I'm glad my journey has ended under his watch. I'd like to wish Kieran and the Armagh squad all the best in 2018 and into the future."

 

Yours in sport, 

 

Ciarán McKeever

 

Ciarán McKeever Bio

Age: 34

Club: St Patrick's Cullyhanna

Achievements: 4 Ulster SFC titles, 3 League titles - Division 1 (2005), Division 2 (2010), Division 3 (2015), 1 All-Ireland U-21 FC title, 1 Ulster U-21 FC title, 4 Interprovincial SF titles, represented Ireland in four International Rules series. 

15 August 2017/Author: Media GPA/Number of views (10712)/Comments (0)/ Article rating: 3.0
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"This time last year an All-Ireland was ten years away from us, or so we all thought,”

- Cork hurling legend Ben O'Connor

"This time last year an All-Ireland was ten years away from us, or so we all thought,” - Cork hurling legend Ben O'Connor

 

 

There are many aspects of Cork's play during the 2017 championship that bare little resemblance to the two years previous but Rebel legend Ben O'Connor is quick to make the case for defence.

Getting scores has never been an issue for Kieran Kingston's side but conceding them has. The bolts have been severely tightened in recent months, however, and O'Connor lays much of the praise at one man's feet.

Millstreet is not renowned for its hurlers but in Mark Ellis, they have unearthed a gem with two-time All-Star O'Connor believing that he has alleviated the pressure on their "overworked" full-back and allowed them to thrive. 

"Mark Ellis is really after standing up this year. I would have been critical of Mark before, a big strong lad like him I thought he was very loose with fellas running in past him, this year he's after getting way more physical and growing into the No 6 spot," O'Connor tells gaelicplayers.com.

"He's one of the main reasons because that half-back line is dominating and keeping the ball out. Then inside you have Damien Cahalane, he's gotten a lot of stick the last few years but I never thought he was the problem. 

"I just thought they were overworked in the full-back line but the half-back line are stopping a lot going in and taking the pressure off them. They're playing so well inside that anything that comes in they're meeting it at 100 miles an hour."

O'Connor picked up three All-Ireland medals during an illustrious Cork career with the much-acclaimed half-back line of John Gardiner, Ronan Curran and Seán Óg Ó hAilpín driving them forward at every opportunity for two of those successes.

He sees huge similarities with the current crop of Chris Joyce, Ellis and Mark Coleman who are continuously provide a springboard to attack but the efficient link play between defence and attack has also impressed him immensely.

"When we were going well there wasn't a ball passing Sean Óg, Gardiner or Curran and when it did you had the likes of 'Sully' (current selector Diarmuid O'Sullivan) coming out and fellas were worried when he was coming out because he was hitting hard," O'Connor says.

"Our half-back line took so much pressure off our full-back line, they were winning it in the air, they were winning it on the ground and Cork have been badly caught in the half-back line the last two years whereas this year they are after strengthening up a lot.

"Mark Coleman is a serious addition coming in playing the way he is but as a unit in general, Cork are poles apart from other years and Damien Cahalane breaking out against Clare in the Munster final was a prime example of that. 

"He runs and he runs with the sliotar, if that was last year when Damien got to the middle of the field there's a good chance he would have taken a shot. Great score if it goes over but if it goes wide you're under pressure again

10 August 2017/Author: Media GPA/Number of views (2051)/Comments (0)/ Article rating: No rating
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Updated hurling championship proposals

Please see link below to final version of the GAA Hurling Championship Proposals following inputs considered by the CCCC. These will now be going forward to a Special Congress on 30th September.

 

Of the amendments which the GPA submitted to the CCCC to the original proposal the following changes have been implemented

  • A six-team Provincial Qualifier Group (Tier 2) consisting of Laois, Westmeath, Kerry, Carlow, Antrim and Meath based on 2017 results.
  • Top two teams from Christy Ring and Nicky Rackard Cup round robin groups qualify for semi-finals.

However the following GPA suggestion was not included:

  • Two teams from the Provincial Qualifier Group (Tier 2) progress to play the 3rd placed teams from the Leinster and Munster Round Robin Tier 1 groups, providing an extra game for another county and rectifying imbalance between Leinster and Munster RR Group.

With regard to potential changes to the Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher competitions, the suggestions from the players have been submitted to the CCCC who were broadly receptive of the recommendations. These will require scheduling change rather than structural change with final details of these to be confirmed after the outcome of Special Congress.

  • Extension of season from five weeks to potentially nine weeks, for a finalist, allowing break weeks for recovery and preparation before semi-finals and final.
  • Final of Lory Meagher Cup to be played as a double-header with Leinster or Munster RR final round game.
09 August 2017/Author: Media GPA/Number of views (745)/Comments (0)/ Article rating: No rating
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"Playing against Tyrone was different than anything else I experienced as a footballer,"

Oisín McConville on the epic Tyrone/Armagh rivalry


 

As some of the biggest games of his Armagh career were peering over the horizon, Oisín McConville was always laid-back and relaxed and the scale of the occasion never fazed him as he took it all in his stride.

That was unless Tyrone were in the other corner, if the Red Hand were approaching there would be a clear change. All of a sudden, it was no longer 'just another game' and McConville would steel himself for a challenge like no other.

"I was fairly relaxed and level-headed going into games in general but those games against Tyrone took on a completely different life of their own, it was a completely different experience. It was almost like it was claustrophobic," the two-time All-Star tells gaelicplayers.com.

"There was never more than a score between us and it was a great time to be playing football, they brought the best out in us and we brought the best out in them. Some people would say we also brought the worst out in each other but they were trying to get where we were and then we were trying to get where they were and we were both driving each other on.

"You had to prepare mentally and physically, it was a challenge to the head, it was a challenge to bite your tongue, it was a challenge to your discipline because there was a lot of verbals floating around. It was different than anything I experienced as a footballer."


The 30 men to take the field weren't the only ones going through an emotional rollercoaster during those titanic clashes of the noughties, however, and the mood around the counties involved was reflected by their fortunes inside the white lines.

Football was big business and dominated the public consciousness. "In the dominant newspapers in the north at the time, it wasn't just back page and inside back page news, it was front page and every page, it was just completely dominating people," he says.

"I know people say Gaelic football results can determine your mood on a Monday or for a week and can decide whether you're able to go into work and face your colleagues and meet your neighbours every day, genuinely it was affecting people's lives in that way.

"I went to secondary school in Newry and Down were always our traditional rivals but when that Tyrone thing started, it was a proper derby and it encapsulated everyone. Don't get me wrong a lot of it was banter but there was genuine angst between both teams."

03 August 2017/Author: Media GPA/Number of views (985)/Comments (0)/ Article rating: No rating
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"Geezer took all excuses off the table in Kildare"

GPA CEO Dermot Earley looks back on Kieran McGeeney's six years with the Lilywhites

When a bright-eyed Dermot Earley crossed paths with Kieran 'Geezer' McGeeney during a Railway Cup semi-final in Casement Park in 1999, little did he know how big of an impact Armagh's 2002 All-Ireland-winning captain would have on his playing career.

The pair swapped jerseys after their duel, a piece of memorabilia GPA CEO Earley has proudly kept until this day, before teaming up to represent Ireland in the International Rules for the following two series.

Losing possession at a key moment during the second test Down Under in ’01, Earley feared the worst but quickly made amends and robbed the Australians of possession and a post-match conversation with Geezer sums up his manic intensity. 

"I was chatting him after and I was saying 'Jaysus I lost that ball and it could have been crucial, it could have decided the series' and he just shot back at me saying 'Yeah, but you got it back'. That was the sort of edge he had," Earley says.

They would reacquaint during Sarsfields' epic Leinster club semi-final trilogy with Na Fianna, with whom McGeeney played his club football when living in Dublin, later that winter but six years elapsed before they would meet again.

 

EXCITEMENT AROUND KILDARE

Geezer had barely hung up his Orchard boots when the inter-county management door knocked and Earley can vividly remember his reaction upon hearing the news from then Kildare chairman Syl Merrins.

"When Syl told me 'We have McGeeney', I nearly put the phone down straight away to ring Johnny Doyle and I said 'Johnny, Kieran McGeeney is coming to manage us'. It created a savage buzz," Earley recalls.

"One of the measures of the respect he had nationwide was that players were always wondering what he was doing because he always set the bar so high, whether it was the physical training or the way he played on the pitch. 

"You always had an interest in what was going on up in Armagh as a result. He was this mythical figure and you heard stories of him buying a load of fruit every day to give him the edge and how he was always working hard for the small percentages."

THE FIRST MEETING

His first port of call was a team meeting in October '07, just days after Earley had been on a wrong side of a county final defeat to Newbridge rivals Moorefield but there would be no feeling sorry for himself while celebrations would cease on the other side of town. 

"Usually you'd be gone missing for three or four days after a big derby game like that but everyone wanted to see what Kieran would bring to the table so all the Moorefield and Sarsfields players were there in Newbridge on that Tuesday night," he says.

"That night he threw it back on us and asked 'Why haven't Kildare been successful to date?' There was no real answer out there but it got you thinking. From the start he demanded an awful lot of us, he demanded a lot more of his leaders.

"He'd give myself, Johnny Doyle, Killian Brennan and Rolly (Ronan) Sweeney a harder time than others because his belief was that a team should be player driven and it's the players that drive it forward. If someone steps out of line the players put him back in his place."

 

27 July 2017/Author: Media GPA/Number of views (1986)/Comments (0)/ Article rating: No rating
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