Ulster GAA president Aoghan Farrell has sympathised with the plight of college teams potentially losing players for the McKenna Cup, as their county teams lay claim to them for the January competition.
A number of sides such as Tyrone and Armagh are understood to be keen on retaining the services of their players, leading to some universities threatening to pull out of the McKenna Cup.
Speaking at the launch of the Power NI-sponsored tournament last night, Farrell said that his concerns lay with players placed in difficult situations in having to choose between their college — who are poised on the cusp of a Sigerson Cup campaign — and their county.
“It's a concern when players are put in a situation where they are a bit torn as to play for colleges or their counties,” he said.
“That's not just in this competition that's in other competitions too,” he added.
“I said that the primary focus has to be on the player; they are amateur players, they are under contract to nobody, we are not in the business with amateur players of dishing out suspensions or getting heavy with people.
“But at the same time we would like to think that people will respect players,” stated the Ulster president.
When asked if the Ulster Council would not make a direct appeal to county managers over the issue, Farrell indicated that they had not been in touch with team managers, but rather the county boards.
“I would make an appeal to county boards, I have not been talking to any county manager.
“Our jurisdiction is with the county boards and I have met with the county chairmen and I have appealed with them that they should take charge of their county boards, which they do, and that they should ensure that the regulations of the competitions are adhered to.
“The county board chairmen should be calling the shots in counties.”
Detailing the history of problems that have dogged college players through history, Farrell elaborated: “Bringing in the colleges was always going to lead to certain conflicts and it is regrettable, but the position of the Ulster Council remains very clear — colleges should have first choice of their players and we have not diluted or changed that.”
It has emerged in recent times that St Mary's College took considerable persuasion to stay in the competition last year after they lost a sizeable contingent of their players.
Farrell revealed that college teams had already indicated their worries regarding this forthcoming campaign.
He said: “They have concerns and they have indicated that to us and we are definitely aware of them, I am indicating my complete sympathy with them.
“If I was a player at college and I have a chance to play with my county, I wouldn't like to jeopardise that.
“But having said that, I wouldn’t like to jeopardise my opportunity to play with my university either.”