Meeting touches an intriguing backdrop to kick off the battle for valuable league points on the athletic fields


Allianz Football League Division One: Armagh v Kildare (Today The Athletic Grounds, 6pm, BBC iPlayer)

THEY say familiarity breeds contempt, well, tonight’s league round five encounter between Armagh and Kildare couldn’t be more intimate.

On the pitch, the teams admittedly don’t know each other very well and the game can’t be described as a derby clash, but on the sidelines it’s a whole different story.

Kerry heroes Paul Galvin and Kieran Donaghy have spread the gospel of football in Kildare and County Orchard and will be in opposite corners tonight, but that’s nothing compared to the main event.

Two legends of the game and two of the greatest centre-backs of all time go head-to-head, with precious League points as the prize offered to whoever raises their hand.

Glenn Ryan and Kieran McGeeney will be remembered as inspirational figures during their successful playing careers, but the focus now is on recreating that impact from the dugout.

Ryan, the last man to captain his home county to a Leinster title, had already hung up his boots by the time Kieran McGeeney pulled on the Kildare bainisteoir bib.

But Johnny Doyle and Dermot Early, two members of Kildare’s dream team management along with Anthony Rainbow, were McGeeney’s most trusted lieutenants during his time in charge of the Lilywhites.

Armagh and Kildare will be forever linked throughout Geezer’s managerial career and although he did not deliver provincial silverware, the McGeeney years are still fondly remembered in Kildare.

The 2002 All-Ireland winning captain took the Leinster side a hair’s breadth away from an All-Ireland final in 2010 and endured several more heartbreaks in the hunt for a provincial title.

McGeeney is leading Orchard’s newest stars on the same upward trajectory, though it’s taken a little longer than some expected.

He’s built a team that can comfortably compete at the top level since he took over eight years ago and he seems to finally have the team that can do that.

Their eye-catching wins over Dublin and Tyrone marked Orchard’s return to the top flight, but the hype train has stalled slightly in the last two games.

Still, their bench has had a serious impact on all of their outings so far this season and they can bring in players who would fit into many top teams’ starting lineups.

They have plenty of options up front, with Oisin O’Neill, Conor Turbitt and Stefan Campbell all unable to find a starting spot in the early stages of the campaign.

Momentum is essential to stay in the division and Armagh’s unbeaten run was ruined at Roscommon on the final day against Mayo.

Kildare enters the game having picked up their first victory of the campaign and with it they have put to bed more than a decade of injuries.

Nobody knows more than Armagh the rebound beating Dublin can give a team and they have been well warned ahead of this weekend.

Not only that, but Ryan’s team is also the only team to take points from top table players Kerry, who are early market favorites in the race for Sam Maguire.

Kildare performed well against All-Ireland champions Tyrone but left Omagh empty-handed and needing the points if they are to stay in the division.

There is no doubt that they have enough talent in their ranks to pose serious questions to their hosts. Mick O’Grady, Jimmy Hyland and Kevin Feely are all superb footballers while Daniel Flynn is something special in the attacking line.

Aidan Forker got the better of Flynn when they recently met in 2002, with the two finishing the game on one point apiece. The man from Maghery should again be given the task on Saturday.

Armagh may be further along in his development and with the comfort of home advantage he should have enough to claim victory.


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