Friday 9 December 2016

Kieran McGeeney: 'Dubs and Kerry hit harder than any Ulster team'

McGeeney believes different refereeing standards apply to top two

Published 02/06/2015 | 02:30

Kieran McGeeney believes there is a difference in refereeing styles, particularly when it comes to Ulster football
Kieran McGeeney believes there is a difference in refereeing styles, particularly when it comes to Ulster football
Longford’s Brian Kavanagh in action against Dublin duo Paul Flynn, left, and David Byrne

Donegal are "not in the same ball park" as Dublin or Kerry when it comes to physical contact, Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney has suggested.

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McGeeney, who is preparing his team for next week's provincial quarter-final with Donegal in the Athletic Grounds, feels the intensity of the Ulster Championship makes games in the province look more physical than they are.

But when it comes to harder hits by bigger men, McGeeney feels Dublin and Kerry are in a league of their own with Mayo beginning to catch up.

"I would put Kerry and Dublin way above Donegal in terms of physical contact," he said. "The physicality is seen more in Ulster than in other provinces.

"You look at it a different way but from a playing point of view, I can categorically state they (Donegal) are not even in the same ball park.

Derogatory

"They might be closer because of the northern thing. But in terms of actual physicality, you are on about bigger men and harder hitters.

"In fairness, Mayo have stepped up too in the last couple of years in terms of the size of the men they have and the way they hit," he said.

McGeeney acknowledges that may come out as derogatory but is not intended to be. In fact, he cites the All-Ireland semi-final replay between Kerry and Mayo as the perfect template for football but sees too much inconsistency between referees for that to happen on a regular basis.

"All games should be played like that but no one else referees a game like it. We are not allowed to play like that. There were rows, bibs torn up, fellas thrown over signs, there was all sorts of things and not a dicky bird.

"It was great football, in fact it was the best game of the year. The doctor got pushed over in our game and it should not happen, but the maor foirne got his bib ripped apart (in Limerick). It is just looked at in a different way.

"I think football should be played like that," he said. "Hurling is played like that but in fairness to hurling the players get up and get on with it. When I say that, people think that I am being derogatory but I am not. I am being the opposite.

"That's why I always enjoyed playing against those teams because I think you were allowed to play that way. I definitely think they (games against Dublin and Kerry) were refereed differently. Basically, it comes down to whatever type of game the referee wants it to be.

"They'll (refereeing officials) deny that and say it's not true but we don't have the rules to play the game the way we want to see the game played."

McGeeney feels frees in hurling are much harder earned than Gaelic football. "If they lie down in hurling the referee just doesn't give them the free whereas if we (footballers) lie down holding onto somebody's arm, we get it straight away."

McGeeney is reluctant to engage too much in the debate on sledging but believes it is "present in all sports".

"You have a competitive arena and two men banging heads off each other. They are going to say stuff to each other. Some people are nastier than others, but it happens," he said. "I do think there are lines that you would hope people would not cross. Maybe manners is not the right word, but in terms of being human, understanding people's background."

Dublin's Jim Gavin believes managers have the power to control the issue better and McGeeney feels no matter how teams try to portray themselves a certain level of sledging exists in them all.

"I have been on the sideline for a lot of games against a lot of teams and it has existed in all of them, no matter how pure you would like to paint yourself," he stated.

"It comes down to the individual, it's how you react to somebody rubbing your hair when you miss a point?

"How you react when someone leans into your back or hits you a dunt and tells you to get up or stop crying?

"Some people, if things happen in their lives that become public, that's a problem when you are in a public arena. That's going to be thrown back at you, regardless of what it is.

"It's happened years ago. But if some of the stuff that is being reported has been said, I think it's terrible. You would hope as a human being you wouldn't say those things," he said. "You just don't like going into it, because it affects things.

"I have had things said to me by people that are very high-profile. People think butter wouldn't melt in their mouth. But you just get on with it.

"You should always carry yourself with some sort of decorum or class. There are some lines you should not cross. There are times you will lose your temper and you will say things you regret in the heat of the battle."

McGeeney feels apologies should always be forthcoming when the line he speaks of is crossed.

"Some people's personal lives become public and people use that against them. I would think if you did, then you should hold your hands up and apologise, because you can move on.

"We are trying to do things with our (Armagh) Academy, with our young players and the need to understand that better people make better players.

"There is nothing wrong with getting stuck in and being competitive. Like all sports, people will look at the lines and see how far they can push them. I remember being given off to for saying something to somebody in the Ulster Championship and I wasn't.

"I was responding to something they said to me. I would have always felt I didn't need to do that, but you can get caught in conversation.

"I am on about some big games recently and I have heard some things said by top players. They don't mean them, I think, most of the time."

l Armagh County Board is hosting a fundraising 'Night at the Dogs' at Dundalk Stadium on Saturday night next (7.30). Tickets cost €20 and are still available.

Irish Independent

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