Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Declan Bogue: No easy answer to hurling headache

For some years now, commentators have been concerned with the aim of getting Ulster hurling up to a certain standard.

Their suggestion of forming a provincial team to represent Ulster would not only help to spread the popularity of the game, it would also provide a new challenge for the established powers in the game.

From that, the game could take hold throughout the province, to spread from the little footholds it has at present.

Perhaps it was with these promptings over the past few years, that the GPA Annual General Meeting forwarded a proposal to Croke Park that they should examine the possibility of an Ulster team forming at minor and under-21 level to compete in the Leinster Championship, with a view to following up at senior level.

It is at this point that they hit a roadblock. While the GPA has a seat on Central Council, unless they can find a county to propose it at county convention level and bring it through the layers of bureaucracy to annual congress, then the proposal will wither on the vine.

The crunch will come, however, in what shape competitions would take with a ‘Team Ulster.' If they were to take the place of Antrim, it is hard to see all the players happy with that arrangement.

It would also throw into chaos the structure of competitions such as the Lory Meagher and Nicky Rackard Cups; while the likes of Tyrone and Fermanagh would be disbanded, they could hope for perhaps two, or a maximum of three players to be selected for Team Ulster, while the rest of the panel are left without competitive hurling for their county. That would result in halving their number of games and lead to players walking away from the sport.

Counties such as Leitrim and Longford have been competing for years in hurling, barely surviving on the lower rungs of the National Leagues. Their natural opponents are the Monaghan's and Fermanagh's of this world. If they were taken away, then they would have no hurling either.

And the landscape is not fertile enough for that.

Back to the drawing board.

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