I have a lot of baggage with counties north of the border. GAA fans in Ulster – and in Armagh and Tyrone in particular – will never forgive me for some of the barbs I directed at their teams in the early noughties.
On reflection, some of my comments were out of order and much of the criticism levelled at me by my northern 'fan club' was well-merited.
So today I'm skating on thin ice, having selected Tyrone and Armagh to be the subject of my forensic analysis.
Tyrone contested the 2018 All-Ireland final, as well as last year's semi-final. They've fluctuated between being a top-four and top-six side in recent years.
At face value, Armagh appear an odd choice. Though they topped Division 2 when the League was suspended, they have no realistic chance of winning an All-Ireland in 2020.
So why pick them? Because I believe they’re the team with most potential not playing in Division 1. Furthermore, the fortunes of the counties are intrinsically linked this summer because of the Ulster Championship draw.
But I must digress for a moment to reflect on my troubled relationship with the northern teams and, in particular, Tyrone and Armagh.
Even to this day the mere mention of my name north of the border evokes a mixture of anger, hate and utter disdain. Well, you can't please all of the people, all of the time.
Irrespective of what I write, Ulster GAA fans won't be happy. It took me a while to understand why the northern counties react differently to criticism compared to everywhere else.
Fans in Kerry, Dublin, Mayo – or anywhere south of the border for that matter – are passionate about Gaelic football and do get angry when I criticise their teams. But, ultimately, it's like water off a duck’s back. It’s quickly forgotten about – even in Mayo.
I now understand why GAA fans in the six counties react differently. Like all southerners, I didn't experience what it was like to live through the Troubles, right at the coalface.
Being a member of the GAA sometimes meant being targeted. And, tragically, people lost their lives, primarily because they were members.
So the GAA is not just another sporting organisation for communities north of the border. It is their badge of honour and identity – and they don't take kindly to anybody criticising it.
So much so, that they can quote verbatim things I wrote 25 or 30 years ago. Meanwhile, I can scarcely remember what I wrote a week ago.
I now understand why at times I was public enemy No 1 for GAA fans in Armagh and Tyrone. Being perfectly honest, a lot of it was my own fault and I deserved to have the book thrown at me.
During my playing career the Ulster champions were the whipping boys when it came to the All-Ireland series.
With the exception of Down, the rest were beaten before they crossed the border for the All-Ireland semi-final.
Too often we sent them home with pious platitudes ringing in their ears, about the great job they were doing to keep the flag flying in such trying circumstances.
Deep down we didn't care about their plight, so long as we kept winning.
Ulster teams did win four All-Ireland titles in a row between 1991 and 1994, but it wasn't until the emergence of Armagh and Tyrone in the early noughties that I was forced to change my thinking.
In the aftermath of Armagh's historic 2002 All-Ireland final win I was guilty of donning the Kerry jersey afterwards. I was less than magnanimous in my comments and didn’t give Joe Kernan's side the praise it deserved.
They were a seriously talented side with players – like Kieran McGeeney, Paul McGrane, Stevie McDonnell and Oisín McConville – who were among the best in the business at the time.
Actually, the only valid criticism which could be levelled at them was that they didn't win enough silverware at national level, though they contested the 2003 All-Ireland final and won the National League in 2005.
Really, that Armagh team ought to have won at least one, if not two, more All-Ireland titles.
Likewise, after Tyrone's deserved win over Kerry in the 2003 All-Ireland semi-final, I didn't give them the credit they deserved.
But what I regret, in particular, is my "puke football" comment because it was the label which Tyrone were stuck with ever after.
The truth is that after their breakthrough in 2003 they threw off the shackles and during the next five seasons played as exciting a brand of football as Dublin and Kerry produced in their pomp.
Players like Stephen O’Neill, the late Cormac McAnallen, Peter Canavan, Brian Dooher, Sean Cavanagh and Owen Mulligan would have graced any All-Ireland-winning team. However, there is one element of my original criticism which I stand over.
Armagh and Tyrone introduced tactics which changed Gaelic football – and not for the better. I criticised it at the time and I haven’t changed my mind.
Ulster GAA coaches realised that Clive Woodward’s paralysis-by-analysis approach, which secured the Rugby World Cup for England, could be adopted for use in Gaelic football.
It was all about defending and stopping the opposition from playing. And virtually every county team – including Kerry – eventually adopted this strategy.
It reached its nadir in the 2011 All-Ireland semi-final when Jimmy McGuinness sent a Donegal team into battle against Dublin with the most defensive game plan in history.
They would have been content to win 0-1 to 0-0 and the final scoreline of Dublin 0-8; Donegal 0-6 reflects how the game was played.
I have absolutely no regrets about the fact that I was a constant and consistent critic of this awful style of football.
Ultimately I was proven right, though it wasn’t until Jim Gavin took over Dublin that this stain on the soul of Gaelic football was removed.
Funnily enough, as my notoriety increased up north, so did the invitations to do after-dinner speeches at GAA functions. And I have always been well looked after on those trips.
The one piece of advice I got was never to apologise. The audience might hate what I had to say but they wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.
Boy, did I have some scary moments though. It wasn’t unusual for a bouncer to stand near the stage when I gave my speech, just in case anybody wanted to hand out some summary justice.
Mind you, I deliberately got their goat up from the word go.
I used to begin every speech with the same line, recalling how honoured I was to be a member of Kerry's four-in-row team between 1978 and 1981 and then the 1984-86 side. Then I would pause.
These were knowledgeable GAA fans and I could hear them whispering to each other, 'I thought he played in the 1975 final. Wasn’t he presented with the Cup afterwards?’
Then I’d throw in my next line: 'I didn't bother mentioning the 1975 win because we don't count one-in-a-rows in Kerry,' (By the way, we do now). Looking back on it now I don’t know how I didn't end up getting punched.
Hopefully today's verdicts on Armagh and Tyrone won't cause any further friction up north.
Armagh are, essentially, a work in progress and after wins over Cavan and Kildare they looked on the cusp of securing promotion before the Covid-19 pandemic halted everything.
My optimism about them is based on the personnel that fill the No 8 to No 15 jerseys.
Jamie Clarke and Stefan Campbell are established quality players, but the emergence of Jarlath Óg Burns together with the O’Neill brothers Rían and Oisín is a massive plus.
Of course, they're far from the finished article. Inconsistent form and a woeful Ulster Championship record must gnaw at their confidence.
Remarkably, they took five seasons to win an Ulster Championship match under Kieran McGeeney and haven't contested an Ulster final since last winning the title in 2008.
In this year's League they endured a shock six-point drubbing from Laois and only managed an away draw against Westmeath.
At face value, Tyrone are several rungs above them on the ladder.
Mickey Harte is the most experienced football manager around, his team has pace and quality players and they have a trusted system in place, which I noted they reverted to during the 2020 League.
And don't forget two of their three wins came against Dublin and Kerry.
Furthermore, Niall Morgan has developed into Stephen Cluxton Mark II, and last year, when they did play the ball faster into Mattie Donnelly and Cathal McShane, they did a lot of damage to most teams. On the other hand, having Harte still around is a double-edge sword.
Their tactics won’t evolve while he’s in charge and fresh voices in the dressing room are unlikely to be heard. Like most teams they’re creatures of habit and revert to defensive tactics when under pressure.
Their lack of goals is a concern – they failed to find the net in three of their League games and, overall, they were the second lowest scorers in the top flight (2-61).
And, finally, the elephant in the room is the possible loss of McShane for the entire Championship – if it's played. What links Armagh and Tyrone is the draw for the Ulster Championship and, frankly, the two counties have the draw from hell.
Tyrone meet defending champions Donegal in the first round, while Armagh take on Derry – the winners meeting in the semi-final. So both teams can’t reach the final.
The nightmare scenario for both is that the GAA may have to curtail the Championship and opt for an old style knockout series with no back door.
So, one of them at least, may have a very short summer. Yes, Mickey and Kieran will be hoping that there is a back door in the 2020 Championship.