Ultimate magazine theme for WordPress.

After Na Fianna, 2002 and the GPA, Dessie Farrell and Kieran McGeeney’s sporting lives converge again this evening

Dessie Farrell and Kieran McGeeney met in a Dublin nightclub in late 1998.

He was drinking following Na Fianna’s county final loss to Kilmacud Crokes, while McGeeney was partying with Armagh teammate Diarmaid Marsden, according to Farrell’s 2005 autobiography.

McGeeney was working in Dublin at the time and was interested in playing club football in Dublin.

Several ‘outside’ players were on board when Na Fianna won their first county title in 20 years, with Armagh star McGeeney the finishing ornamentation on a recruitment drive Farrell had unabashedly began years before.

It was a disappointing All-Ireland club final defeat in 2000, but they won the next two Dublin county titles. It is the only three-peat in the last 30 years.

McGeeney brought a lot to Na Fianna, noted Farrell in his book.
When McGeeney joined Na Fianna, Paul ‘Pillar’ Caffrey was manager.

They would have got on beautifully on the field as McGeeney played most of his games under me in midfield and we had Dessie as either a centre-forward or full-forward.
They were two of the most impressive people I have heard speak in a dressing room in all my time being in dressing rooms.

“Out of a group of 30, those two would be the first names on a list for future inter-county managers.”

Farrell said that his desire to raise Na Fianna eroded his popularity in the dressing room due to his candour in criticising his comrades. But he had McGeeney.

A individual who believed in realising his objective was much more enthusiastic than myself.

The Na Fianna dressing room would have frustrated Dessie for many years, Caffrey says.

There was quality but the boys just weren’t applying themselves, so he would have felt disappointed. McGeeney joining the team and being as serious as Dessie in terms of preparation, standards, and application was manna from heaven.”

Their careers converged in the 2002 All-Ireland semi-final. They were also instrumental in the formation of the Gaelic Players’ Association, with Farrell as CEO and McGeeney as secretary.
McGeeney, despite playing at centre-back, was practically assigned Farrell as a marker, with then Blues boss Tommy Lyons fearing that the Armagh captain’s influence would be nullified by the burden of keeping eyes on his clubmate.

It worked to a point, but Farrell was unsuccessful and Armagh won their only All-Ireland by a single point.

A Dublin selector by then.

“Dessie had more experience than Kieran, who was just entering his peak in terms of his role with Armagh.

As their playmaker from centre-back, he was vital in limiting his time on the ball and influence on the game.

“The Dublin camp would have had enormous respect for what McGeeney could do.”

Farrell left Dublin in 2005, and McGeeney left Armagh two years later. With one All-Ireland and six provincial titles each,
McGeeney, who spent a year coaching Armagh before taking over as manager, faces a Dublin side managed by Farrell at Croke Park tonight.

Comparing their managerial careers is paradoxical. McGeeney is a good manager but hasn’t won any major awards.

Farrell, despite being an All-Ireland winning manager, is a mystery. But Dublin’s grip on the Championship was finally loosed in 2021, and the year was a shambles.

Kieran has no Ulster, Leinster or All-Ireland titles to his name as a manager, which Caffrey believes is hurting him.

“Dessie, meanwhile, is only in his third season. Although he was in charge in the semi-final against Mayo the year before, it was perhaps the oddest All-Ireland in its history, as it was played on Christmas Day, and didn’t have the same feeling as other All-Irelands have had or would in the future.”

Caffrey says they each have “huge pressure” going into the new season as they share a sideline tonight. And, depending on the year, perhaps the last.