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My A to Z Guide to this year's All-Ireland championship

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney, left, and Dublin manager Dessie Farrell shake hands at Croke Park. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

A is for Armagh, who haven’t featured in an Ulster final since 2008, when they last won the Anglo Celt Cup. Kieran McGeeney’s side are improving but face a huge test against Donegal in Ballybofey on Sunday week.

B is for Black Cards: They are set to make their appearance in the All-Ireland hurling championship just two years after the idea was laughed out of court at Congress.

C is for Cork, the GAA’s sleeping giants. They haven’t won the Liam MacCarthy Cup since 2005 and last secured the Sam Maguire Cup in 2010.

D is for Dublin, a defining season for the GAA’s glamour football team. They will be hoping this week’s training camp in Portugal will give them enough impetus to finally kick-start their season.

E is for Enniskillen, where this year’s All-Ireland football championship kicks off on Saturday evening when All-Ireland champions Tyrone begin their defence of their title against Fermanagh.

F is for fans, after two seasons during which a lifetime of summer rituals were ruined by Covid-19 restrictions, normal service resumes. Stand by for traffic-jams, ham sandwiches and great craic.

G is for Galway, one of the country’s few counties who have genuine aspirations of winning All-Ireland titles in both codes - which heaps pressure on team bosses Padraic Joyce and Henry Shefflin.

H is for hurling, the return of the round-robin format in Leinster and Munster means the small-ball game will grab the lion’s share of attention in the coming weeks. But can anybody stop Limerick achieving the three-in-row?

I is for idiosyncrasy which perfectly describes the GAA’s attachment to the outdated provincial football championships.

J is for joints, the ‘wear and tear’ on players’ bodies will increase significantly due to the condensed nature of this year’s All-Ireland.

K is for Kerry - the game’s aristocratic team again start as favourites to end their mini-famine but can Jack O’Connor be their saviour again having managed them to three previous titles?

Kerry manager Jack O'Connor

L is for Leitrim and London, who meet in the Connacht championship in Ruislip on Sunday, four decades after Leitrim’s first championship match in London.

M is for mis-matches, watch out for them in the early rounds of the provincial football championships.

N is for negative, much of the football we will witness over the next couple of months could be described as negative - with teams focussing on a defensive, counter-attacking styles.

O is for Offaly hurlers, who face a defining summer after missing out on promotion to Division 1. They really need to go well in the Joe McDonagh Cup.

P is for penalties, on the law of averages one championship game is going to be decided on a penalty shoot-out in 2022. Stand by for the predictable out-cry.

Q is for questions! The GPA ban on players doing TV interviews has been used by some managers to avoid answering any questions from any media outlet after games.

R is for referees, their match day work-load is intolerable, yet they are pilloried if they make a mistake. We need to cut them a bit of slack.

S is for the sin-bin, teams have now adjusted to what has to be done if they lose a player for ten minutes. Watch out for the sudden onset of cramps as teams try to find way to wind-down the clock.

T is for Tyrone, history weighs against the current All-Ireland champions as they failed to reach the final in the season after winning their three previous All-Ireland titles in 2003, 2005 and 2008.

U is for unrealistic, which sums up the expectations of the majority of fans about their team’s chances. Does anybody really expect a county other than Dublin, Kerry, Tyrone or Mayo to win the All-Ireland?

V is for victory, as the Saw Doctors’ hit song put it ‘To win just once would be enough’. For the bulk of counties one win in the championship justifies all the blood, sweat and tears.

W is for Waterford; their hurling team is everybody’s second favourite side after their own. Ken McGrath, Tony Browne, Dan Shanahan and John Mullane all exited the stage without an All-Ireland medal. Can the current team end the county’s 63-year wait for the Liam MacCarthy Cup?

X is for x-ray, the ability of the bigger and better financed counties to access hi-tech medical facilities at the drop of a hat gives them another big advantage over the minnows.

Y is for yelp, we will hear plenty of these sharp cries from the stands and terraces, and probably a few from players as well over the next four months.

Z is for zone, being in the zone is what every player and teams wants to be on their big day in the championship.

Enjoy the summer!

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