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Joe Kernan: Entertaining McKenna Cup bodes well for rest of the season

The Railway Cup football semi-finals are looming and wearing my Ulster manager’s hat I have been attending a number of games in the Power NI Dr McKenna Cup recently.

I have been pleasantly surprised both by the attendances and by the fare on offer.

Indeed, the value of the January competitions in all four provinces is currently being underlined by the high quality of football.

Ulster is, if anything, setting the tone for the new season. I watched Down play Armagh on Sunday week last before taking in the Monaghan v Down tie last weekend and the Fermanagh v Tyrone clash last night.

All these games showed that there are a number of exciting new players in action who are extremely eager to become regulars in their county teams.

At the same time many of the more experienced players such as Dan Gordon (Down), Stephen O’Neill (Tyrone), Paddy Cunningham (Antrim) and Andy Mallon (Armagh) have been catching the eye.

Last night’s Tyrone v Fermanagh tie attracted a big crowd and again served to show the depth of talent contained in both counties.

Indeed, it is most encouraging to see youthful talent blossom on this particular stage and no county is benefiting more in this respect than Cavan.

It is clear that a number of players who made their mark at Under 21 level last year are now beginning to feel at home in the Breffni Senior team.

Cavan won the Ulster Minor and Under 21 titles last year and their dominance of these sectors has sparked hope that at Senior level the county might flourish in the not too distant future.

They are certainly moving forward with confidence and it was good to hear that John Morrison, now No 2 to Cavan boss Val Andrews, was at the Armagh v St Mary’s match last Sunday.

I know that John is keen to get into action with Cavan following his illness and I have no doubt that he will bring his own special qualities as a coach to the Breffni table.

The McKenna Cup semi-finals are scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

Hopefully the weather will remain fine for what should be two cracking games.

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