Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Big freeze benefit for top bosses

Kevin Cassidy (left) hopes to shake off the Swine flu virus to return for Donegal against UUJ

It’s an ill-wind that does not blow anyone any good.

Amid the frustration, disappointment and general inconvenience caused by the total wipe-out of the weekend’s Barrett Sports Lighting Dr McKenna Cup competition because of frozen pitches, three team managers at least have some cause for relief.

Antrim boss Liam Bradley will now see his team embark on their tournament campaign by hosting St Mary’s on Saturday next having been spared a rather daunting assignment against Armagh at Crossmaglen yesterday.

New Donegal manager Jim McGuinness now has a further week in which to get Swine flu victims Kevin Cassidy and Neil Gallagher ready to face UUJ and Cavan boss Val Andrews will doubtless be glad to have home advantage against Derry on Saturday.

The Swine flu virus infiltrated the Donegal camp to a worrying extent over the weekend, leaving manager McGuinness facing big selection posers had yesterday’s game against Tyrone gone ahead.

But he now has several days in which to assess his resources as his team bids to retain the trophy.

“In one sense everyone was very disappointed that all the matches were called off at the weekend but the weather left the Ulster Council with no choice,” he said.

“I would like to think that the guys in our squad who are currently ill will recover in time to maybe play some part in next Saturday’s game against UUJ.”

But for UUJ boss Adrian McGuckin there is not quite the same level of encouragement.

He will be without four top-class forwards in Conor Mortimer, Conor McManus, Jamie Clarke and Ciaran Donnelly but is not prepared to wallow in self pity.

“While we would love to have players like these on board, we have to get on with it. The McKenna Cup will form perfect preparation for us for the forthcoming Sigerson Cup,” insists McGuckin.

Ulster Council spokesman Oliver Galligan last night confirmed that while the postponement of the weekend McKenna Cup programme means that it will now have to be condensed between next weekend and the end of the month, the Council remains optimistic that it can get the competition completed on schedule.

“There is milder weather forecast for this week and hopefully this will prevail through to next weekend,” says Galligan.

“We had several very attractive matches due to be staged on Saturday and yesterday but that was not possible.

“However, we have four games lined up for next Saturday and two more for Sunday so there should be no lack of action.”

It is expected that those managers who had revealed their teams for games that were scheduled for the weekend will adhere to these starting line-ups for next weekend’s games.

And the Ulster Council still plans to make the Barrett Sports Lighting Dr McKenna Cup final a gala affair.

“There is no doubt that the status of the competition has been enhanced in recent years and we would naturally like to see it build to an exciting climax,” adds Galligan.

“Since the university sides were included a few years ago this has served to give the competition an extra dimension and I feel we have some very exciting fare on the menu between now and the end of the month.”

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