Declan Bogue: Colleges need help of strong leadership
Do you remember when the Dr McKenna Cup was only mentioned as a punchline to a joke? As in, the competition had become so irrelevant that not even the McKennas went to see the final?
Do you remember how it would inhabit a very strange place on the calendar, somewhere between the league and Championship, with sometimes the final not being played until many months later in winter?
And then, something changed. A shake-up saw it slotted into January, to be ran off before the beginning of the National League. Colleges were presented with an ideal run of games before a Sigerson campaign.
Fans were eager to shake off the post-Christmas blues and a structured competition that guaranteed at least three games allowed them not only to see all the players getting their chance in the jersey, but also who had ‘wintered well', and whet the appetite.
Last year on a Wednesday night, throw-in had to be delayed for fifteen minutes as traffic choked up Omagh while the Tyrone faithful rushed to see the return of Peter Canavan as Fermanagh manager.
In its' present form, the Dr McKenna Cup is an ideal competition, but the current situation regarding player eligibility between county teams and colleges threatens to destabilise it. The dogmatic approach of ‘all or nothing' is going to solve nothing.
There are several examples of players who have gathered timber in their backside gaining only a few token minutes for their county in the McKenna Cup, when their time could have been much better spent playing three full games for their college.
The rule says that colleges should have first pick. But the rule is being bent to suit the will of some. Time for some strong leadership. Over to the Ulster Council.