Kieran McGeeney hopes the returning Jamie Clarke “gives himself the best chance” to prove his class with Armagh in 2017.
The Crossmaglen forward, 27, did not play inter-county football this year after travelling abroad but is committed to playing a full season with Armagh, according to his manager.
McGeeney also revealed he has upped Armagh’s pre- season training programme in a bid to stave off injuries later in the season.
After losing 13 players to injury during a luckless 2016, the county’s 2002 All-Ireland winning captain intends to heed the advice from the medical experts.
“By the looks of things it (number of injuries) was because we weren’t doing enough training,” he said. “We did very little for pre-season last year and tried to change it later in the year, but by all accounts it’s just a bad way to do it. We had a lot of injuries.
“That’s what science is pointing to, that you need a stronger pre-season to cope with the demands. We would try to give them more time off. But sure, you try things out, sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.”
McGeeney has always been sceptical of the perception that inter-county players are over-trained and put under pressure by the excessive demands of managers.
“I’m not trying to belittle what Gaelic players are doing at the minute, definitely not, they are in better shape than we would have been when I was playing. Most teams do two field sessions and two gym sessions if there’s no match on, or one gym session and a match. That’s where most teams are.
“Take somebody who just generally keeps fit, they would do that, and I would be surprised if most clubs don’t do that. In fact, I’d say most clubs are already back training for a championship that doesn’t start until September — and yet it’s the county teams who are bananas.”
McGeeney is excited by the potential of the young players in Armagh, flagging up the quality of Stefan Campbell, Rory Grugan and Ethan Rafferty, and insists the returning Clarke will have to work hard to get in the team.
McGeeney also revealed veteran defender Andy Mallon “will definitely be asked back” but isn’t expecting him to return early.
Crossmaglen corner-back Paul Hughes is back in the squad after a year in America while Kieran McKeever, Mark Shields, James Morgan and Andrew Murnin should all be ready for the start of their Division Three league campaign. McGeeney intends fielding as strong a team as possible in the forthcoming McKenna Cup campaign.
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