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Out-of-date All-Ireland Championship format must go, says Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney

By John Campbell

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney believes it is time for the GAA authorities to address what he feels is an "unbalanced" All-Ireland Championship structure.

As the countdown begins in earnest to the four provincial competitions, McGeeney is urging an overhaul of a system which he maintains has been in place "for over 100 years."

The 2002 All-Ireland winning captain points to the actual composition of the various provinces as one of the glaring anomalies of a format which has been coming in for increased criticism of late given that a number of the games are largely meaningless because of the yawning chasm in terms of standards which exits between counties.

"When you have 11 counties in one province, nine in another and five or six in two others, it doesn't matter what you do it's unbalanced," insists McGeeney,

"One province is maybe perceived as a football province, another maybe as a hurling province. It doesn't matter what way you look at it, it is what it is and it has been like that for over 100 years. That's my opinion anyway."

Much has been made of what is regarded as a congested annual fixtures itinerary of late and McGeeney's comments will spark further debate as the spotlight is focussed on the All-Ireland Championship.

Ulster hosts what is regarded as the best of the provincial football championships given that Dublin are expected to stroll through Leinster again, Kerry look capable of extending their traditional dominance in Munster and Mayo will remain in pole position to lift the Connacht crown although Roscommon are beginning to emerge as a credible force and Galway have shown signs of recovery.

Armagh now face a six-week wait before they take on the winners of the Donegal v Tyrone preliminary round tie in the Ulster quarter-finals, but McGeeney does not feel that the benefits accruing from Saturday's Division Three final win over Fermanagh will be diluted because of the time lapse.

"I believe that any day you can win in Croke Park is a good day," maintains the Armagh boss.

"Any time you go out there again knowing that you have played on that pitch and won is a good thing. It's usually a big game and to have those winning memories is important.

"To be able to build that type of habit of expecting to win at Croke Park is a very positive factor."

Neither Ciaran McKeever or Aaron Findon started for Armagh at the weekend, but both will be fully fit for the Ulster Championship tie while Caolan Rafferty and Kevin Dyas both got what McGeeney regards as important game time against Fermanagh.

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