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Mark Shields of Armagh during an Allianz Football League media event ahead of the Meath and Armagh fixture at Páirc Tailteann in Navan, Co. Meath.
Mark Shields of Armagh during an Allianz Football League media event ahead of the Meath and Armagh fixture at Páirc Tailteann in Navan, Co. Meath.

Shields says Armagh players have let down McGeeney


By John Harrington

Armagh defender Mark Shields says he and his team-mates feel like they have let down manager Kieran McGeeney in the past with inconsistent and poor performances, especially in the Ulster Championship.

When Shields talks about McGeeney, the esteem he holds him in is obvious, and it is as much to do with the way the Armagh manager has helped him off the field as on it.

He played an important role in getting Shields enrolled into his physiotherapy course in the Royal College of Surgeons and has helped many other Armagh players in their career progression in a similar way.

And it’s because of all the effort that he has made both to improve them as people as well as footballers that Shields believes the players haven’t always repaid McGeeney as much as they should have.

“There are times yeah you do feel like we have let him down a bit, especially in the Ulster Championship,” said Shields.

“We haven’t really turned up the last two or three years. It is frustrating. We want as a team to do it for him, whether it is his last year or not.

“We just want a good run in the championship and maybe to promotion into Division 1.”

Inconsistency has been this Armagh team’s most obvious character trait since McGeeney took charge.

Their League form has been up and down, and even though they’ve failed to win a single match in the Ulster Championship in four years they have usually found a good vein of form in the All-Ireland qualifiers.

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney speaks to his players before the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Final match between Armagh and Tyrone at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh. 
Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney speaks to his players before the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Final match between Armagh and Tyrone at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh. 

So far this year their league campaign has been something of a curate’s egg too.

They played some really good football against both Kildare and Clare but somehow conspired to draw the matches after suffering mini-collapses in the closing minutes of both of them.

Watching that unfold from the sideline must have been hugely frustrating for their manager.

“He wasn’t really that angry, just more frustrated that we are letting these leads slip,” said Shields.

“We need to get over the line and get the two points basically.

“He knows it’s in us. He sees the potential and even when our backs are against the wall like it was yesterday and a man down, he knows that there is potential in this team and it’s just a matter of time before it clicks in.

“He said if we just bring it to Meath this weekend, apply our own principles and hopefully get over the line.”

McGeeney’s legendary status in his own county as captain of the 2002 All-Ireland winning team means he will always have the complete respect of his players.

But Shields admits that the desire to live up to his legacy does bring its own pressure for the current era of Armagh footballers.

“It does yeah,” said Shields. “He was a great leader and a great player himself.

“It does feel like you want to do more for him, and again what he has done for Armagh football, and the titles that they have won, the Ulster Championships, you want to be where he is.

“Kind of emulate his achievements. Me personally, that’s where I want to be up where he is with the titles, so hopefully yeah.”

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