Joe Kernan: Stand up and hail the Ulstermen
When Ulster and All Ireland Championship games are staged, the level of intensity can be overwhelming. Players are invariably prepared to put their bodies on the line, absorb huge hits and on occasions stretch the elasticity of the rules in a bid to pound the opposition into submission.
Yet when those same players from different counties are summoned to perform under a unified banner they are prepared to forget tribal differences, past battles and bouts of controversy to pursue a common aim.
Thus it was with Ulster at the weekend. Players who might otherwise be viewed as the best of enemies not only bonded superbly under the provincial flag but exhibited a level of cohesion and energy that ensured they overhauled Leinster in terms of inter-provincial titles won.
Given that the majority of the players are reaching the end of what has been a particularly demanding year for them, it was hugely impressive to see the level of commitment and desire they showed in overcoming Munster in the final at Ruislip.
The inter-provincial championship may be the butt of criticism from followers and indeed some officials but anyone witnessing the enthusiasm and hunger of the players involved at first-hand will require no further convincing that the competition should continue to have its place in the calendar.
To have landed the trophy in this the 125th year of the Association renders the triumph even more significant and reflects great credit on the players and captain Stephen O’Neill, my back room team of Seamus McEnaney, Tony Scullion, Dr Martin McConaghy, Eoin O’Neill, Gerry Nolan, Eamon Mackle and Ross Kernan and the Ulster Council who gave us every support.
Inded, Ulster, to my mind, is well ahead of the other provinces in several aspects of the GAA — the provision of widespread floodlights, superbly administrated Summer Camps, cohesive Coaching structures and the impressive Club Maith project.