“Ask not what your county can do for you but what you can do for your county.”
Remember the advert that used to jump out of the page when you were intently scrolling through the match-day programme shortly before throw-in on Championship day?
It’s an old one but a good one and one that perfectly ties in with the ethos of the GAA.
Of course, the slogan was derived from JFK’s famous inaugural address where the young, charismatic 35th president of the United States called upon the people of his nation to work together to improve the collective state.
Improving the collective state of Armagh football is something that Kieran McGeeney holds very dear, that cannot be disputed. That’s why Armagh fans should be delighted that he’s been ratified for a further two seasons.
Some may feel that his time in the role has run its course and that was made abundantly clear by the publishing of an anonymous letter penned by a former “Orchard star” in The Irish News following Armagh’s exit earlier this summer.
The letter called upon the county board to be “ruthless and make a change at the top” while questioning McGeeney’s continued loyalty toward certain members of the panel.
The timing of the letter was strange, while it may have been the earliest Armagh had exited the Championship since 2016, in many ways it felt like the most progressive season yet under McGeeney’s tutelage despite two strong Championship runs in 2014 and 2017 (he was Paul Grimley’s assistant in 2014).
Armagh’s 2019 record may read; two wins, two losses and one draw but when examined under a microscope the season looks a whole lot more impressive.
A win over the old rival, Down, their first Championship defeat in Newry for 63 years, was followed by a draw, then a defeat to a resurgent Cavan side riding the crest of a Mickey Graham shaped wave before a not-so-shocking, shock win over Monaghan in the second round of the qualifiers.
The summer ultimately came to an end following a one-point defeat to Mayo in Castlebar, a loss draped in controversy and one that Armagh will have felt they left behind considering where Mayo find themselves today. They faced some of the toughest opponents possible in the 2019 Championship and met the challenge head-on playing with a brand of football that not only brought joy to fans but members of the media also.
The record books might not say it was McGeeney’s most successful campaign but there is a sense of optimism within Armagh that hasn’t been there this decade.
A former teammate of Kieran McGeeney and All-Ireland winning full-back, Justin McNulty, told Pundit Arena that McGeeney is the best man to take an improving Armagh side forward at this juncture.
“I really believe it is the right move for Armagh. I’m not saying that because he’s a guy I played with for many years. I just think it’s what’s right for Armagh at present. I think he has progressed the team enormously over the last few seasons, the team are very, very competitive. They really should have beaten Mayo in Castlebar and Mayo have shown that they are a very competitive team who are now in an All-Ireland semi-final.”
The former Laois manager describes McGeeney as the “consummate professional” who he holds “most responsible” for Armagh’s finest hour on September 22nd, 2002.
“Geezer is the consummate professional and I don’t say that meaning money. Professionalism is not about money it’s about attitude and Geezer’s attitude and approach to Gaelic football throughout his career has always been exemplary. He’s the person who I hold most responsible for our success in 2002. There are many pieces to the jigsaw but Geezer was the person who brought it all together.
“His leadership was incredibly strong and positive and inclusive. He brought the whole group together, he had everyone going in the same direction, there were no cliques and everything was done for the good of the team and beyond that, he’s had a very, very positive track record in management. At the end of the day, he’s there not because of the All-Ireland winning team, he’s there on merit and his track record and he deserves the opportunity to move this team on.”
As for the letter calling for ruthlessness on the county board’s behalf, McNulty feels that it has ultimately galvanised those within the county to rally behind McGeeney to let him finish what he started.
“I think the letter did what it was intended to do. It had everybody talking about us and it sold newspapers and probably, as one of the columnists mentioned, it has galvanised support for Geezer so it may have been counterproductive by whoever was the author. If there was an author because the language wasn’t that of a footballing brain.”
The person who penned the letter came in for some flak around its sentiments and the fact that they failed to take the by-line but it is important to note that they are within their rights to air their grievances. The least that supporters deserve for the time and commitment spent following their county team is the right to say they aren’t happy with the status quo.
However, the debate is over now and McGeeney is there for two more seasons. It’s time for everyone in the county to come together and rally behind an up and coming team that is playing football in the right manner and striving to improve the collective state of Armagh football
Ask not what Kieran McGeeney can do for you but what you can do for Kieran McGeeney.