Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Armagh boss McAlinden in rage at fixture fiasco

Down and Armagh will battle it out at Casement Park tonight (8.00 pm) for a place in the All Ireland under 21 football semi final.

The only problem is that the winners are being asked to play that semi final less than 72 hours later on Saturday afternoon.

Armagh manager Brian McAlinden is still waiting for an explanation as to why tonight’s winners will be penalised through no fault of their own.

“I know both Dublin and Cork who play in the other All Ireland semi final have had a fortnight’s break since winning their provincial titles.

“Mayo also played last weekend so they have enjoyed a break as well.

“It beats me why they couldn’t have played this match against Down last week.

“If you speak to anyone in Croke Park they will insist the problem rests with Ulster,” he said.

McAlinden is also far from happy with the fact the All Ireland under 21 decider won’t be played in Croke Park.

“It’s every young players’ dream from primary school days to wear the county jersey and to play in Croke Park.

“The under 21 team is second only to the county senior side and yet Croke Park seems determined to prevent these lads from playing in Croke Park.

“I would consider myself first and foremost a sportsman, but Croke Park’s first priority must be to gaelic games.

“The Under 21 final has been scheduled for the same day as the Munster and Leinster Heineken Cup semi final at Croke Park so that says volumes about their commitment to the under 21s.” he added.

It’s easy to understand his frustration given that the Down-Armagh game could have been played last week.

The two managers involved have put in countless hours preparing their sides and the last thing they needed was to be hit with a provincial decider three days before an All Ireland semi final.

Armagh backboned by senior players Kieran Toner, Stefan Forker and Paudie Rogers, will rely on the side that beat Donegal in the semi final.

Down boss Peter McGrath who steered the county to All Ireland senior glory in 1991 and 1994, said: “It’s unfortunate that the Ulster fixtures were a week or two behind the other provinces.

“I thought that after we beat Tyrone in the semi final there was a chance the All Ireland semi final might have been put back a week, but now the only chance of it being put back is if the Ulster decider ends in a draw after extra time.

“I believe the All Ireland final is scheduled for Saturday week so that they get everything wrapped up before the senior championship gets up and running.

“In addition I believe both All Ireland under 21 semi finals are being televised live on TG4 so that left little room for change,” he said.

Down, the defending champions, are hopeful that defender Collie Murney will be fit to play to night against Armagh.

A wrist injury has prevented him from appearing in the championship so far.

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