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This is the game, this Mayo team have beaten Dublin and Tyrone before but they've never been able to get over Kerry in the championship," former Mayo star Pat Fallon on Kerry vs Mayo

 

Twenty years have passed since Mayo's All-Ireland SFC final defeat to Kerry and Sam Maguire hasn't made the journey back to the west in the mean time but that still hasn't burned the flame lighting inside Pat Fallon and the former Mayo star sees a glorious opportunity knocking as they renew acquaintances with the Kingdom in Sunday's semi-final.

Fallon was a colossus throughout the 1997 campaign, earning an All-Star at midfield, but a Maurice Fitzgerald-inspired Kerry side proved too hot to handle in the final as they fell by three points, with the Cahirciveen forward clocking nine points in their 0-13 to 1-7 defeat.

The year previous Mayo recorded a rare semi-final victory over Kerry (before falling to Meath in an ill-tempered All-Ireland final replay) but amazingly, 21 years has elapsed without another championship win over the Kingdom.

That amounts to a lot of heartbreak but Fallon insists no amount of defeats can kill off Mayo's spirit and he's not one bit surprised that the current crop have made it all the way back to the last four, despite encountering much turbulence along the way.

"Nothing knocks the stuffing out of us and the lads have shown that as well, this team has a had a lot of knocks but we're fierce passionate about football and once the New Year starts, it's a new championship again and we don't linger too long on defeats," Fallon tells gaelicplayers.com.

"The lads that are playing now are competing on massive days and when you get to that and see the support that the Mayo fans have, the crowds that met us in Castlebar in '96 and '97, it just gives you great resolve to go and do it the next year, and the next year. 

"I don't think anyone that puts on a Mayo shirt ever looks back, maybe they'll look back with regret when they stop but while they're playing they're looking forward and seeing how they can get a little bit better, that's the driving force behind most footballers.

"Only one team every finishes the year on a high so if you're a county footballer in a team that's not winning a Connacht final regularly, how do you go back every year? If you're playing with Mayo and rated as one of the best in the country, you're only inches away and that's a great driver.

“The best sportspeople park what has happened and move onto the future. Roy Keane always said he remembers his disappointments more than his successes and the disappointment can drive you on further, it has definitely driven this Mayo squad further."

It's been a rocky road back to the semi-finals but Stephen Rochford's side are exactly where they planned to be at the start of the year and Balla clubman Fallon believes victory at the weekend could signal something special.

It's 66 years since Mayo last lifted All-Ireland SFC honours and Fallon feels their time time is now. "This is the game, if they can get over this they'll have huge belief going into an All-Ireland final," he says. 

"They've beaten Dublin and Tyrone before but this group hasn't beaten Kerry in the championship.

17 August 2017/Author: Media GPA/Number of views (88)/Comments (0)/ Article rating: 5.0
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EXCLUSIVE: Former Armagh captain Ciarán McKeever opens up on Kieran McGeeney, his hopes for Armagh’s future and what's next for him

 

After idolising Kieran McGeeney growing up and later becoming good friends with the Armagh legend, it was only fitting that 'Geezer' was the man at the helm when Ciarán McKeever brought the curtain down on his 14-year Orchard football career.

 

McKeever describes the "surreal" experience of joining the Armagh squad for the first time in 2003, just months after their first, and only, All-Ireland SFC title win with greats like McGeeney, Steven McDonnell and Paul McGrane steering the ship.

 

They say you should never meet your heroes but McKeever begs to differ. His footballing idols shaped his education and a familiar face would be the first to welcome him to the fold when he commenced training with the newly crowned Sam Maguire winners.

 

"Being a defender, Kieran McGeeney was always one of the players I looked up to and admired. When I first went in he was one of the first players to come over and introduce himself to me," McKeever tells gaelicplayers.com when reflecting on the start of his inter-county career. 

 

"I was probably one of the players that followed him around and wanted to learn off him, we generated a great bond and a great friendship from there on. He took me underneath his wing and I learned an awful lot from him.

 

"He helped to develop what it meant to play for Armagh and there was no better man to learn that from, everything he does is for the betterment of Armagh football. Even when he was with Kildare, I would've picked his brain a lot.

 

"He'd help me with my own game and how to develop things, he never once shied away from it. He always wanted to help things for the better and I'm glad my inter-county career has ended under his watch. I started my career with him and I finished it with him too." 

 

There was always an aura about McGeeney, who famously spent €30 on fruit every second as he sought an edge as a player, but during one of many stays with the 2002 All-Ireland-winning captain in his Dublin base, McKeever saw a different side of him.

 

16 August 2017/Author: Media GPA/Number of views (223)/Comments (0)/ Article rating: 5.0
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Statement issued on behalf of Armagh footballer Ciarán McKeever

"It was always my dream to represent Armagh growing up so it's with a heavy heart that I announce my retirement from inter-county football today. It has been a great honour to have been part of the Armagh squad from 2003-2017, as captain for six of those years, and this is not a decision I have arrived at lightly.

"Having met with Kieran McGeeney at the end of 2016 after undergoing two operations, I was unsure of my inter-county future but we decided to try and get the body right for one more year and I believe the time is now right to call it a day.

"I would like to thank every Armagh manager who I have worked under and all county board officials for their continued support throughout my career. Also to my club St Patrick's Cullyhanna, in particular Ciarán McConville who gave up so much of his time to develop my game. 

"My journey as a county player has been truly wonderful – it has been a privilege to have been involved with such an incredible group of footballers and I am very fortunate to have tasted the ultimate success at international, provincial and county level and captaining Armagh's U-21s to All-Ireland success in 2004 was a special highlight. 

“While always an enormous commitment, playing for Armagh was a fantastic experience and I would like to thank the many people who supported me during my career, particularly my parents Majella and Michael as well as all my family and friends.

“I was always proud to be the Armagh Rep for the Gaelic Players Association and I’d like to thank the GPA for their support and I look forward to remaining active with the players’ body in the future.

"I'd also like to thank Denis Hollywood, Armagh GAA Games and Coaching Officer, for spending endless hours with me on a one to one basis as he helped to improve my knowledge of the game and develop the skill set needed to succeed at this level. 

"I'd like to pay special thanks to Kieran McGeeney, who I always looked up to as a youngster from my days travelling to watch Armagh play. When I joined the squad in 2003, he took me under his wing and helped me develop as a player, he taught me what commitment and values were required to play for Armagh and I'm glad my journey has ended under his watch. I'd like to wish Kieran and the Armagh squad all the best in 2018 and into the future."

 

Yours in sport, 

 

Ciarán McKeever

 

Ciarán McKeever Bio

Age: 34

Club: St Patrick's Cullyhanna

Achievements: 4 Ulster SFC titles, 3 League titles - Division 1 (2005), Division 2 (2010), Division 3 (2015), 1 All-Ireland U-21 FC title, 1 Ulster U-21 FC title, 4 Interprovincial SF titles, represented Ireland in four International Rules series. 

15 August 2017/Author: Media GPA/Number of views (9404)/Comments (0)/ Article rating: 3.0
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"This time last year an All-Ireland was ten years away from us, or so we all thought,”

- Cork hurling legend Ben O'Connor

"This time last year an All-Ireland was ten years away from us, or so we all thought,” - Cork hurling legend Ben O'Connor

 

 

There are many aspects of Cork's play during the 2017 championship that bare little resemblance to the two years previous but Rebel legend Ben O'Connor is quick to make the case for defence.

Getting scores has never been an issue for Kieran Kingston's side but conceding them has. The bolts have been severely tightened in recent months, however, and O'Connor lays much of the praise at one man's feet.

Millstreet is not renowned for its hurlers but in Mark Ellis, they have unearthed a gem with two-time All-Star O'Connor believing that he has alleviated the pressure on their "overworked" full-back and allowed them to thrive. 

"Mark Ellis is really after standing up this year. I would have been critical of Mark before, a big strong lad like him I thought he was very loose with fellas running in past him, this year he's after getting way more physical and growing into the No 6 spot," O'Connor tells gaelicplayers.com.

"He's one of the main reasons because that half-back line is dominating and keeping the ball out. Then inside you have Damien Cahalane, he's gotten a lot of stick the last few years but I never thought he was the problem. 

"I just thought they were overworked in the full-back line but the half-back line are stopping a lot going in and taking the pressure off them. They're playing so well inside that anything that comes in they're meeting it at 100 miles an hour."

O'Connor picked up three All-Ireland medals during an illustrious Cork career with the much-acclaimed half-back line of John Gardiner, Ronan Curran and Seán Óg Ó hAilpín driving them forward at every opportunity for two of those successes.

He sees huge similarities with the current crop of Chris Joyce, Ellis and Mark Coleman who are continuously provide a springboard to attack but the efficient link play between defence and attack has also impressed him immensely.

"When we were going well there wasn't a ball passing Sean Óg, Gardiner or Curran and when it did you had the likes of 'Sully' (current selector Diarmuid O'Sullivan) coming out and fellas were worried when he was coming out because he was hitting hard," O'Connor says.

"Our half-back line took so much pressure off our full-back line, they were winning it in the air, they were winning it on the ground and Cork have been badly caught in the half-back line the last two years whereas this year they are after strengthening up a lot.

"Mark Coleman is a serious addition coming in playing the way he is but as a unit in general, Cork are poles apart from other years and Damien Cahalane breaking out against Clare in the Munster final was a prime example of that. 

"He runs and he runs with the sliotar, if that was last year when Damien got to the middle of the field there's a good chance he would have taken a shot. Great score if it goes over but if it goes wide you're under pressure again

10 August 2017/Author: Media GPA/Number of views (209)/Comments (0)/ Article rating: No rating
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Updated hurling championship proposals

Please see link below to final version of the GAA Hurling Championship Proposals following inputs considered by the CCCC. These will now be going forward to a Special Congress on 30th September.

 

Of the amendments which the GPA submitted to the CCCC to the original proposal the following changes have been implemented

  • A six-team Provincial Qualifier Group (Tier 2) consisting of Laois, Westmeath, Kerry, Carlow, Antrim and Meath based on 2017 results.
  • Top two teams from Christy Ring and Nicky Rackard Cup round robin groups qualify for semi-finals.

However the following GPA suggestion was not included:

  • Two teams from the Provincial Qualifier Group (Tier 2) progress to play the 3rd placed teams from the Leinster and Munster Round Robin Tier 1 groups, providing an extra game for another county and rectifying imbalance between Leinster and Munster RR Group.

With regard to potential changes to the Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher competitions, the suggestions from the players have been submitted to the CCCC who were broadly receptive of the recommendations. These will require scheduling change rather than structural change with final details of these to be confirmed after the outcome of Special Congress.

  • Extension of season from five weeks to potentially nine weeks, for a finalist, allowing break weeks for recovery and preparation before semi-finals and final.
  • Final of Lory Meagher Cup to be played as a double-header with Leinster or Munster RR final round game.
09 August 2017/Author: Media GPA/Number of views (224)/Comments (0)/ Article rating: No rating
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