"Some people just have different passions" - Geezer sees where Clarke is coming from
Kieran McGeeney spent the first half of his lock-down recovering from shoulder-surgery, a re-construction which he says was a long time coming.
When you've had a career as a force of nature you see, and live a life that, even at 49, takes you in and out of the MMA octagon, these are the battle-scars you come to expect.
"I had to get five muscles cut off and reattached," he says with the unflinching straightness of a man who was only inconvenienced by the time it all took.
"Years of self abuse and self harm caused it, I suppose! I got caught with a kimura (form of MMA) then at the end of it. That was a couple of years ago. I fell on it at training and a whole lot of different things, it was just years of taking hits and bangs and knocks and eventually it was… when I went in for the referral, some of the things were just hanging on by threads..."
Still unflinching. Same old Geezer.
The marble man remains lean as a rake and if he wasn't the Armagh manager, then there would be no reason why he couldn't take up a familiar position, as centre back on the Armagh team. So when you put it to someone as single-minded as McGeeney, who they couldn't make training hard enough for, that Jamie Clarke is taking another year out, his response might be considered somewhat surprising.
"Everyone has a personal choice. Jamie is an exceptionally good fella, I have a lot of time for him personally and he was always straight up when he goes. Some people just have different passions. I don’t really think it’s got to do with the football or the commitment.
"They just tend to give commitment to other things, I suppose it depends where your cards are aligning on your particular journey."
While many cite the increased demands as a reason for decisions such as Clarke's, McGeeney feels that the game has never been more enjoyable for players.
"I would actually think the opposite of where you know, I think football nowadays is far more enjoyable, you have to remember that when we were going back training/travelling home, we were going back to run on a pitch. We did a pre-season in September, another one in January and another one in April/May, and all we did was run.
"That’s all we did, run!"
"The summer months were great but you still ran until a week or two before championship when you got to sharpen up with a few sprints! Now it’s just all football, outside of pre-season, game scenarios. Definitely, at the tail end of my career, it was coming a bit like that but at the beginning, I could have went with a 400/800m runner. That’s how Martin McQuillan and those boys were killing me."
"You were going home depressed after running down sand-dunes and up hills. I think it’s a great time to be involved in football. I genuinely do. I think it’s moved on exponentially, in terms of what they’re doing for their players, and even just to be able to access the different things that you can there as a footballer. It’s not for everybody, especially when you’re not getting first-team hurling/football, it’s easy to get disgruntled because in everything like that, people are going to have different opinions, mine might not be right and a manager might pick different players but I think in general, players are enjoying football and hurling."
One of his big moves in the off-season was to bring Kieran Donaghy into the Armagh set-up, with the Kerry man's raison d'etre to teach the Orchard county's forwards his own selfless ways.
"The reason I went after Kieran was Kieran made a career out of bringing other people into the game and I just think that’s something we were still missing in Armagh.
“It’s sometimes hard to explain to people. Sometimes, I think you can have too many good forwards. You need people to make them tick, a bit like Kilkenny does for Dublin, like Kieran would have done for Kerry, things like that. I just thought Kieran would have that type of background in his basketball too.
“We are trying to bring a different perspective to the squad in terms of bringing each other into the game, and not just always being thinking of the next ball, trying to think about how to play as a team.
“Kieran is a very gregarious type of character anyway. He is good fun.
“They find it hard to stop laughing at me all the time. It’s good to have somebody else in with a sense of humour."
This man hasn't lost the dry wit.
“He brings that sort of an edge to it, but at my wedding my dad was slagging all the Kerry ones, now that we have a Kerry women in the family, we can have all the skill of the Armagh ones and all the dirt of the Kerry ones.
“It should be a good balance. I am slagging Kieran about that.
“It’s going back to that point, Kieran with basketball, I also think the fact that although playing underage with Kerry, that he got in through the Underdogs system, he has a great humility about him as well.
“There are different aspects of it. To be a very good forward you have to have a small line of selfishness. You have to have that striker’s impact and things.
“But, the way the game has progressed over the years, people have got a wee bit more defensive in how they play the game, defensive systems and all that, people have been slow to change.
“But, as we all know things have now. Despite defences, good teams are able to break them down. The only way to break them down is actually using each other, setting things up, and that there are more set plays and different things involved in it."
In that case, Donaghy is just the man.