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Ulster sides are being shown in a poor light: McGeeney

By Declan Bogue

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney has launched an impassioned defence against the discriminatory and "degrading" way in which Ulster football is portrayed by elements of the media.

And the 2002 All-Ireland winning captain has predicted a future where crowds at Gaelic football matches would require segregation if this view of the northern province is left unchallenged.

Asked if the upcoming Armagh-Cavan game could be singled out for forensic study by the pundits for abrasive play, McGeeney answered: "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 part of the country.

"It's unfortunate. I don't like it. I find it degrading. Some TV stations and newspapers allow it, it's 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."

Although Gaelic football and hurling matches have never had a policy of keeping rival supporters apart, McGeeney suggested such a course of action may become necessary if the unrelenting criticisms of what might be termed 'northern football' continue unchallenged.

"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 said.

After the 'Rufflegate' incident last year, when Tyrone's Tiernan McCann feigned injury after Monaghan's Darren Hughes ruffled his hair - prompting a red card - RTÉ pundit Colm O'Rourke wrote that there was a "bad smell" emanating from Tyrone, something that angered many within the county.

McGeeney feels strongly about that kind of criticism, stating: "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."

He related some exchanges he had with members of the opposition in his own playing days, admitting: "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."

McGeeney could have been commenting on many different games, but the consensus was that he was referring to the All-Ireland semi-final replay when Kerry beat Mayo in 2014 when he said: "There was an inter-county game two or three years ago where they just got hammered into each other. I've never seen anything like what was let away. And afterwards, it was, 'Wasn't that a manly game? The way football was meant to be played'.

"And then you see another game with half of the scuffles or only one scuffle and it's labelled. It's amazing how it is perceived."

With three and a half weeks to go until Armagh open their Championship with a tricky visit to Cavan, their manager admitted there is no chance Jamie Clarke (pictured) or Caolon Rafferty will return to the panel.

They join a number of injured players. He explained: "James (Morgan) has an operation on May 21 so he is more or less gone. We thought the op might be earlier but it's a nine-month thing for him, though Ciaran (McKeever) has a good chance to come back.

"They are quality players to be missing but the young players are showing commitment and dedication to the cause. Sometimes you're not going to get that opportunity so young, so hopefully it will stand to them."

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