Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney admits to extra pressure

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney
Kieran McGeeney took over the reins from Paul Grimley as Armagh manager

Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney has admitted there is "added pressure and expectation" in managing his native county ahead of the start of his side's Football League campaign on Sunday.

The Orchard county begin their Division Three series at home to Tipperary.

"It's nice being home, Armagh has always been in my blood, even though I loved my time at Kildare and made a lot of great friends there," said McGeeney.

"We are a young squad trying to move in the right direction," he added.

"Sometimes things get worse before they get better - we're expecting a battle in Division Three but we'll just take it one game at a time."

The Armagh boss has opted for experience for his 26-man squad for the game, with goalkeeper Matthew McNeice and centre half-forward Miceal McKenna making their first league starts.

Jamie Clarke has reverted to an attacking role, having experimented at half-back, while Charlie Vernon returns at full-back after missing much of the McKenna Cup as he was on honeymoon.

Former All Star defender Andy Mallon starts on the bench but Brendan Donaghy is not named in the squad.

The 2002 All-Ireland winning captain, who assisted former manager Paul Grimley last season before taking over the reins, believes his panel contains "a good mix" of youth and experience as they attempt to secure promotion from the third tier.

Armagh's Division Three fixtures
DateOpponentVenue
Sunday, 1 FebruaryTipperaryAthletic Grounds
Sunday, 8 FebruaryWexfordWexford Park
Sunday, 1 MarchLimerickGaelic Grounds
Saturday, 7 MarchFermanaghAthletic Grounds
Sunday, 15 MarchClareCusack Park, Ennis
Saturday, 28 MarchLouthAthletic Grounds
Sunday, 5 AprilSligoMarkievicz Park

"A lot of the lads I played with are still there and we have plenty of promising young players who were hardly even born when I started playing.

"I make sure the players are well looked after but I expect them to recognise there's a line - they do their business and I'll do mine."

The fact that the Ulster county reached the All-Ireland quarter-finals last year has led to added expectation.

"One good summer doesn't make us. We didn't have consistency in the league last year that we would have liked and if we do that this year, it will cost us.

"I think it's going to be tougher than people realise. You have teams who have made a big effort this year.

"When you see the likes of Clare pulling hurlers into their football team, and the same with Tipperary, you know they mean business.

"You wouldn't say for definite that we'd be guaranteed a win in any of them."

Tipperary will be without Ireland International Rules player Ciaran McDonald who is expected to miss the entire league campaign because of a hip injury.

Armagh are joined in Division 3 by Fermanagh who open their campaign with a home game against Louth on Saturday night at Brewster Park.

The Erne County produce encouraging January form as they reached the McKenna Cup semi-finals and they will be facing a Louth side beaten by Carlow in the O'Byrne Cup in their last outing.

Armagh: M McNeice; F Moriarty, C Vernon, M Murray; M Shields, C McKeever, D McKenna; A Findon, S Campbell; E McVerry, M McKenna, A Forker; T Kernan, C Rafferty, J Clarke.

ALLIANZ FOOTBALL LEAGUE FIXTURES

SATURDAY - 19:00 GMT

Division 1

Tyrone v Monaghan, Healy Park

Donegal v Derry, Ballybofey

Division 3

Fermanagh v Louth, Brewster Park

Division 4

Waterford v Wicklow, Fraher Field

SUNDAY - 14:00

Division 1

Cork v Dublin, Pairc Ui Rinn

Kerry v Mayo, Killarney

Division 2

Galway v Meath, Pearse Stadium

Roscommon v Cavan, Kiltoom

Westmeath v Laois, Mullingar

Kildare v Down, Newbridge

Division 3

Clare v Wexford, Miltown Malbay

Limerick v Sligo, Kilmallock

Armagh v Tipperary, Athletic Grounds

Division 4

London v Offaly, Ruislip

Leitrim v Longford, Pairc Sean MacDiarmada

Antrim v Carlow, St Paul's

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