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Kieran McGeeney - 'The more you tell people the truth, the less they want to print it'

So are the stories about Armagh’s tough training regime true?

Kieran McGeeney at the launch of the Allianz football league yesterday in Croke Park.
Kieran McGeeney at the launch of the Allianz football league yesterday in Croke Park.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

BURNOUT. INDENTURED SLAVES. Over training. Battery hens.

The life of a modern Gaelic footballer has been brought into sharp focus in 2015 and there’s been plenty heated debate.

Several pundits have been calling loudly for change but what does the manager of one of the counties cited as an example of a penal training regime make of the recent talk?

We caught up with Armagh’s Kieran McGeeney to find out.

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So what about all these rumours about Armagh training then?

“I’ve talked to the people who wrote them and gave them our training schedule but a lot of people just aren’t interested in the truth. I showed them our exact training schedule. It’s very hard to lie when there’s 40 people there so that’s it.

“To say that we’re training ten times a week, at six in the morning, and then two games at the weekend, 12 times a week. The reality is that we’re training three or four times a week and that’s it. There wouldn’t be any more than three hours’ contact time.

“Of all the teams in Ireland, I would say that we were probably doing the least. They work hard but it’s a very small amount of contact time. The more you tell people the truth, the less they want to print it.”

Those rumours of training the morning of Charlie Vernon’s wedding?

“The story was we’d done 12 training sessions that week, when actually we’d done two. We had a Christmas, and then Charlie Vernon’s wedding, so we probably did more drinking that week that training. Sometimes the story isn’t as good when the truth is involved. I can’t do much about it.”

Charlie Vernon Armagh's Charlie Vernon. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Who is behind it?

“People with different agendas, and it’s just silly. Then when you do tell them the truth they say it’s only a bit of craic.”

“Talk to anyone who’s even trying to lose a bit of weight. If you’re not training three or four times a week it’s no good. You look at an amateur cyclist, or rower, or triathlete, boxer, they would train much more than Gaelic footballers, because that’s what is needed for that particular sport.”

Did some Crossmaglen players leave because of the training?

“Well, nobody talked to them about that. Tony (Kernan) mentioned someone was giving out about Armagh training at six in the morning, it was Cross that were doing it, and we were lauding them. You can’t say one thing is right or wrong. Teams will do what they want at a particular moment in time.”

Tony Kernan gets sent off Crossmaglen Rangers player Tony Kernan Source: Presseye/Russell Pritchard/INPHO

Nothing wrong with early morning training then?

“People were training at six in the morning 20 years ago. The people who are over the fitness of teams now know what they’re at. They really do. I know when I was training there was a cone in the corner, with the one light from the club house, and I’d spend half an hour running around that pitch. It used to be demoralising.

“Now, all the training revolves around football. There was talk back then of even top class managers manager 28 days on the trot. And there was no one giving out about it then, and they were winning All-Irelands and that was correct, then.

“But it’s not people who are sitting here that’s writing it. It’s people who don’t want to lose that passes to All-Irelands. And that’s what happens with reporting, now. Maybe we need a new influx of people in the TV media.”

Joe Brolly, Colm O'Rourke and Michael Lester RTÉ's Gaelic football pundits Joe Brolly and Colm O'Rourke with presenter Michael Lyster. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Kevin Dyas reckons all that attention is down to your reputation?

“Probably is, and the fact you lads like the fact I bit back! It’s part of my personality. I just know other teams train harder than us, like I know I trained, longer hours, when I was training.

“People made it out that I had a dour existence, but I think it was them who had the dour existence. Because there was no passion, or love, for what they were doing. If they didn’t want to be there, go home. I loved it. I couldn’t wait to get to training. With (Diarmuid) Marsden to knock the bollix out of me. We had good times. It was a big part of my life, I loved it.

“I think it is something unique in the GAA that we have such a passion for a particular sport that doesn’t exist anywhere else. I think it’s a unique thing and one that should be embraced, not ridiculed.”

Kevin Dyas 9/8/2014 Armagh's Kevin Dyas Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

-Originally published Monday 23.30

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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