Former Armagh star Aaron Kernan has credited Kieran McGeeney for ensuring his 12-week ban earlier this year didn’t become a distraction for the squad.
McGeeney has kept a low profile since serving the suspension for a verbal exchange with linesman Joe McQuillan during the county’s Division 3 game against Antrim in March.
Since returning to the sideline against Westmeath earlier this month, the 2002 All-Ireland winning captain has delegated media duties to his selector Paddy McKeever.
As they prepare to face Kildare in Saturday’s All-Ireland Round 4B qualifier, Kernan praised his old team-mate and manager for diminishing the impact of the controversy.
“I think that’s massive because he probably would have seen it as a distraction or a sideshow, where he just felt it was going to have no impact once the boys crossed the white line.
“Whether he was on the line against Down (the Ulster quarter-final defeat) or not, the boys themselves just didn’t perform. They didn’t stick to the same style of football they had played (earlier this season). Most importantly, I felt they were standing waiting on someone to do something to make it happen; whereas I felt Down were making it happen.
“Down were the aggressors, they looked like the ones with a point to prove. It was the first round of the championship, it was a derby and there was no way Armagh should have been standing back.
“The fact is that Kieran has literally said nothing; even in interviews or whatever — he’s kept himself out of the way. It means there’s no distractions, no sideshows, and he’s letting the boys get at it. So far it’s working.”
The high quality of his Crossmaglen club-mate Jamie Clarke’s goal against Tipperary didn’t surprise Kernan, and he has noticed the bounce back in his step. “He’s a goalscorer more than anything so it was brilliant for him. I think he’s fallen in love with the game again and scoring goals is what he really thrives on.
“There wasn’t much talk about him and he kept his head down prior to that. I’ve seen a bit more of him in interviews and papers since then, but for me that’s just a bit of the swagger coming back into him.
“I’d love to see him really cutting loose.”
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