'They're a resilient bunch' - McGeeney on Westmeath win

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney praised the resilience of his team, as they responded to their second straight penalty shootout Ulster final loss with a five-point win over Westmeath on Saturday evening.

A much improved second half display helped them to triumph 0-16 to 0-11 as they opened their All-Ireland group stage with a win.

And McGeeney was pleased with the response to their defeat by Donegal in the Ulster final a fortnight ago

“They’re a resilient bunch,” he said.

“I suppose it’s about dealing with a lot of the noise that they get. Regardless of what people say, it has been hard to beat our team in big games, but they have, so each defeat is a hammer blow."

McGeeney continued: “Next week [against Derry] will be a test of how we react when things get tough. If we hit that penalty, everybody would say we’re a better team, and for a change I would be a genius.

“For the players it is hard to take. Rory Grugan, Aidan Forker, Rian O’Neill, they’re some of the best players in the country, there is no doubt about that.

“We have shown that we’re able to live with the top teams. These fellas need to get one over the line, to give them that wee bit of confidence.

“But we have games in front of us now that gives them that opportunity.”

Conor O'Neill suffers serious injury

Armagh’s victory over Westmeath owed in large part to a strong showing in the third quarter of the game, where they outscored their opponents by five points to no score.

There was just one point in it at the break, but Armagh pushed their lead out to six points with that flurry, spearheaded by Grugan and Oisin Conaty and never looked back from there.

McGeeney praised how his side controlled the game, rising to their pre-match tag as favourites.

“I thought the fellas played well and controlled the ball well,” added McGeeney.

“In the first half we made a few mistakes, which led to some scores against us, but sometimes that happens after a penalty shootout loss.”

McGeeney confirmed bad news for Armagh fans that Conor O’Neill suffered a ruptured achilles injury during the game, but he is hopeful that Rian O’Neill will be available against Derry next Sunday.

“He took a knock to his calf last week, so it wasn’t worth risking him,” said McGeeney of his star player.

“Rian is a serious individual; he tends to play through hard knocks, but we’re trying to get him to understand that he is human. He pushed himself to his limit last week, and we should have had him off a wee bit earlier, but hopefully he’ll be there next week.”