Kieran McGeeney fears supporters may have to be segregated in the future because of how the media perceives Ulster teams as cynical and over-physical, writes John Fogarty.
Ahead of his county’s provincial quarter-final against Cavan at the end of the month, the Armagh boss describes as “degrading” what he regards as misconceptions of northern sides.
Asked about the belief the game in Kingspan Breffni Park might be the “ugly Ulster” clash, McGeeney said: “I am lucky in the fact that I was in the changing rooms down south and in changing rooms up north. I have seen the perspective and people’s perspective of how different teams play and what they do.
“How we look at things and how things are, are completely different.
“I suppose that’s frustrating.
“I played for a long time, 17 years, and I would still maintain — and everybody laughs at me for it — the physicality that I had from the top teams down south would be far in excess of the physicality that you get from northern teams.
“That’s what they write about, the physicality. If it was described in any other way, if any other province got the same descriptive or narrative words, it would be seen as an ‘anti’ thing for that particular part of the country. It’s unfortunate.
“I suppose I find that, coming from the north what that kind of talk can do. I don’t like it. I find it degrading.
“I find that TV stations and newspapers that allow it, unfortunate, that people can be segregated like that. There’s never a good end to it because they create something that is not really there.
“It’s one of those things like religion, that people fight over when they all believe in peace and God. I just find the TV and newspapers that allow it, I just think it’s a bad way to be about the sport.
“I hope we don’t get to the point where we are segregating our supporters because of where they are from. But if we keep talking the way we do, people will see that.”
McGeeney takes issue with Colm O’Rourke’s comments about Tyrone last August. The Sunday Game pundit said at the time: “I have sort of always thought that maybe there was too much made of this from Tyrone but it’s beginning to follow them around like a bad smell now, this cynical play.”
McGeeney defended Tyrone: “I think that’s wrong. Nobody came up against Tyrone as much as myself. They are neighbours of ours and the rivalry is there.
“We get stuck into each other. But the players I have known in my time, there is nothing but respect for them.
“I have had far more abuse from a lot of people but it’s funny what gets read and what doesn’t.
“If you did tell the truth sometimes… but you don’t, because you understand that everybody has a job to do the next day and has to get up.
“Sometimes when they say these things, they don’t really understand what they are saying or what they are talking about. So you just let it go and you move on.”
The Armagh boss has also heaped praise on Dublin — but doesn’t believe they are unbeatable.
“The probability is that they will win the All-Ireland but sport has a tendency to throw up things that you don’t prepare for, so only time will tell.
“They’re good but maybe there is an aura that has increased around them.
“Competition anxiety is a big thing for most of the smaller counties (but) doesn’t exist in Dublin. They have players who have played in Croke Park more in one year than 90% of players in other counties ever have in a lifetime so there’s a whole lot of different factors.
“You see them playing club football and they’re able to be marked out of it but as a team there’s no doubt Jim has them going well. They are fantastic athletes, and good players but I don’t think they’re any more skilled than a lot of other players around the country, but they’re a well-oiled, very athletic team.
“They have this machine behind them at this stage. But it’s doable.”
Meanwhile, McGeeney confirmed Kevin Dyas as well as Andrew Murnan are out for the championship. They join Jamie Clarke and Caolan Rafferty as the four unavailable players this summer. James Morgan is also out as he must undergo a cartilage operation later this month.
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner