Fresh faces to feature in McKenna Cup

Armagh will play a mixture of youth and experience during their McKenna Cup campaign, says coach Ciaran McKeever.

The 2023 season kicks off on Wednesday as the Orchard County host Antrim. They’ll head to Breffni Park seven days later for their second outing.

Armagh lost out to Monaghan in a penalty shootout last year at the semi-final stage. Fans will hope they can reach at least the last four once again.

“You are looking fresh blood into the squad, and you are also looking to get minutes into your senior players because the National League starts at the end of January,” said McKeever. 

Photo Credit: John Merry

“Everything comes on you very quickly. But at the same time, you are probably hampered with the return to play protocol to get ready for the McKenna Cup.

“I think we were given 32 days from when you were allowed back to training until the start of the Dr McKenna Cup.

“So, we have to take all that into consideration. Obviously, you will have boys coming back from playing club football carrying niggles and knocks. We will just have to weigh up the situation after the Christmas break to see where we are at.

“Our thought process will be to get some of the established players minutes on the pitch. But also to find some new fresh faces for later down the line.”

Fresh faces

Ciaran Mackin and Justin Kieran made their debuts in last year’s McKenna Cup and later featured in the championship.

“We got great benefit out of the McKenna Cup last year by the way we approached it. I think every match we used 12 or 13 subs, and I can’t see it being any different this year.

“Our thought process is, definitely trying to find fresh faces that could help us later down the line. But at the same time, also getting minutes into our senior players to get ready for the National League.

“We had 20 boys in on a trial basis over the last number of weeks, so we have broadened the net and are looking to get players in.

“There will be a cut in the next number of weeks and see where that takes us. We will be hoping that out of that 20 there will potentially a few players who will kick on later in the year for us.”

Photo Credit: John Merry