Ahead of the Dr Mckenna cup getting under way this weekend of the Country’s best known mangers has already questioned it’s merits with the Inter County teams being forced to field somewhat weakened teams after the respective College sides will have first call on the players that are dovetailing between inter-county and third level commitments.
The Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney has become the latest manger to question the worth of the competition ahead of the opening round of fixtures which will be played on Sunday.
The former Kildare boss is now entering into his second season in sole charge of his native county and has already confirmed that he intends fielding the strongest possible team available to him on Sunday for their opening match which is against Derry. Armagh’s approach differs greatly from another of other sides that will field weakened sides for the early season competitions in both hurling and football. Indeed a number of counties are still on team holidays and this has called into question the value of the competitions such as the McKenna cup.
“Some teams have no interest in the McKenna Cup and really just want to start in the league,” said McGeeney.
“You see some of the top teams aren’t even putting teams into those competitions, because they don’t have their whole team anyway, so they’re picking high quality challenge games or in-house games.
“I suppose the other side of it is, why bother having those competitions if the top teams aren’t going to partake in them?”
Although some managers such as Denis Connerton have praised the January competitions and described them as wonderful opportunities challenge matches the Orchard County can be forgive for being less joyful about the start of the new year. James Morgan and Ciaran McKeever will be unavailable until the start of the league
McGeeney has left one ‘AN Other’ spot in his McKenna Cup squad still to be filled, it remains to be seen whether the returning Jamie Clarke plays before their Division Three campaign, while up to seven players will be lining out for the third level sides in January.
“We would still be down quite a number of players because we have such a young team but we’ll intend to put our best team out, which we probably didn’t do last year.
“We will try to do that this year but it will depend on who we have available from the colleges.
“I understand the universities, and I think it’s a great competition, but I don’t know why it’s called an inter-county competition – because it’s not if you don’t get to pick your players.
“The colleges feel they can’t be competitive if they don’t have their players so it’s a ‘catch 22’.
“The first round of the Sigerson is not until the end of January, start of February, so they can’t really afford to qualify for the latter stages (of the pre-season competitions) anyway.”
McGeeney is hoping for an injury-free 2017 after a run of unlucky injuries hurt them badly in last year’s league and championship.
“Our biggest thing is getting our best players on the pitch at the one time, that’s ultimately what we’re looking for.
“I wouldn’t call it bad luck because you tend to make your own, but there’s things that maybe haven’t bounced the way you’d like them.
“You’d hope for a wee bit more of a run for them this year.
“They seem to be in a good place but you have to be honest about where we are. There are some green shoots and hopefully things will turn.”