Armagh will provide a stiff challenge - Gallagher

Armagh will provide a stiff challenge - Gallagher
Kieran McGeeney, the Armagh manager may be talking up Donegal ahead of Sunday’s showdown with the Orchard County, but Donegal manager Rory Gallagher is not buying it.

Kieran McGeeney, the Armagh manager may be talking up Donegal ahead of Sunday’s showdown with the Orchard County, but Donegal manager Rory Gallagher is not buying it.

The Donegal boss feels that Armagh will provide his side with a stiff challenge and especially as the game is at the Athletic Ground, Armagh’s home patch.

There are those that might feel that no more than his opposite number, the Donegal manager is engaging in the usual pre-match propaganda, playing up the opponent.

This may be so in the case of both, but in the case of the Donegal supremo, there is more than a grain of justification in his view of Armagh.

They ran Donegal to a point when the sides last met last summer in the All-Ireland quarter-final in Croke Park.

Just a point separated them at final whistle (1-12 to 1-11) as Donegal came from a point down courtesy of two late points from Michael Murphy and Patrick McBrearty.

They have come through an unbeaten Allianz League campaign, albeit in the lower reaches of Division Three while, Donegal were holding their own in the top flight of league.

And then of course there is the McGeeney and Athletic Grounds factors as the Donegal boss is quick to point out.

“I was at an Armagh versus Tyrone game in the Athletic Grounds in 2011 or 2012 and there was an unbelievable atmosphere,” said Gallagher.

“Kieran McGeeney is in his first year as manager. He is an iconic figure in Armagh and he is the manager the Armagh public have wanted for a long time. And I think that is going to bring out the best in them next Sunday.”

As he has done since taking over from Jim McGuinness last Autumn, the former Fermanagh star forward has taken to the highways and byways running his eye over Donegal’s various opponents at every opportunity.

That includes Sunday’s opponent Armagh.

“I saw them in the Division Three league final against Fermanagh. They never had a full team out in Division Three at any stage and probably could afford to do that and they looked at a lot of players during the league.

“They came through Division Three very comfortably and there is no doubt they were the best team in that league by a mile and I think most people realise that they were not a Division Three team.

“They are going to be a huge challenge and it is one that we are really looking forward too.”

Gallagher and his backroom men of Jack Cooney and Gary McDaid, also dusted down and have watched the DVD of last year’s All-Ireland quarter final in Croke Park.

“We have watched it a few times alright. That game is very relevant. Armagh played very well that day. Early on in the game they dominated for long periods and Odhran (MacNiallais) got the goal which got us back into the lead.

“But they fought really well and I thought they played very well and had the look of a team that knew what they were about. Their young players Stefan Campbell, Kevin Dyas and Aidan Forker played very well considering their age and we can certainly take a few lessons from that game.”

Lessons are something that Rory Gallagher insists can be learned from every game including last month’s highly charged 1-13 to 1-10 preliminary round clash in Ballybofey.

“Any day you play you can learn something and we were hugely disappointed that after getting off to such a good start and went four nil up, that we allowed them back into the game.

“Tyrone then totally dominated us for a period and kicked six of the next seven points and we couldn’t be happy with that .

They dominated us on both sets of kick-outs. They got through for scoring opportunities too easy in the same period.

“They missed a host of chances and we were rather fortunate to go in ahead at half-time.

“It took the goal finished by Martin (McElhinney) and then a great point by Colm (McFadden) to put us ahead.

“We were disappointed too that we only kicked five points in the second half and we felt that with the breeze that was in it we should have kicked a few more points.

“Those are the things we have got to work on. But you also have to realise that Tyrone are a top drawer team and were always going to have their period of ascendancy.”

Sunday’s game and the outcome will come down to which side can impose their game plan on the game and the side that remains composed.

“We always try to impose our style of play on the game and Armagh will be doing the exact same.

“Somewhere along the line there will be a slight clash and a slight tapering off and we are very aware that they will present a different challenge to Tyrone and we will try to adopt a wee bit differently alright. But it is all about imposing our game plan on the game.

“Discipline in any game is key and you have to play within the rules of the game and obviously in Gaelic football every referee interprets the rules slightly differently.

“But we will adapt to whatever way the referee wants to referee it.”

“It is our job as a group and as management to have the boys ready. I know the players demand that of themselves and they will be ready for the battle.

“That is something they are gearing up for and every day you take it day on day and you keep working every day to be better and hope you arrive at a situation that gives you the best possible chance of producing a performance on Sunday.”

Speaking to the media last week, Kieran McGeeney insisted that Donegal were well ahead of his young Armagh side.

“We have a very young team apart from a couple of hardened veterans. They are going to come up against a battle-hardened team in Donegal and that is going to be a difficult challenge for them,” said the Armagh boss.