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Kernan pleads for GAA hierarchy to put faith in inter-pro

By John Campbell

Ulster team manager Joe Kernan has urged the GAA authorities to do everything in their power to enhance the image of the inter-provincial football championship.

And he has lost no time in sending the message to President Christy Cooney that the players from all four provinces have a marked desire to see the competition flourish.

Cooney has confirmed that the future of the series will be reviewed at a special meeting next month and has indicated that the GAA’s support for the competition will be dependant upon the feedback from the provinces.

But Kernan, who steered Ulster to success in last year’s inter-pro series in the final against Munster in London, has moved quickly to provide an assurance for the president in relation to the players’ enthusiasm.

“There should be no doubt about it — the players from all over the country want this competition. The big question is — can we get a decent slot for it in the fixtures calendar?

“We don’t want it to be buried at the back end of the year if at all possible. If people saw the commitment of the Ulster players in particular and the sacrifices they make to prepare for the series they would know just how much it means to them,”says Kernan.

The Ulster boss suggests that the tournament could actually have been staged over the course of last weekend and this weekend.

“What would be wrong with that?” he queries, “We could maybe have played the semi-finals on a Friday night with the final in a suitable venue on a Saturday or Sunday.

“All right, the weather is maybe not the best at the minute but this has been an unnaturally cold winter anyway. Let’s take a very positive stance of this.”

Kernan succeeded Brian McEniff at the Ulster helm and believes that the inter-pro series must remain an important element of the fixtures calendar.

“We have been fortunate in that generous sponsorship for the series has been forthcoming in recent years and hopefully this will continue. If the matches can be accommodated at a more suitable time of the year I have no doubt that the public response will be much better,” adds Kernan.

Stephen O’Neill (Tyrone) captained Ulster to success last year following which the team and their management were feted at the Quinn Insurance Ulster GAA Writers Association banquet.

“I think the fact that the Ulster Council and the writers recognised the team’s achievement testifies to its significance and it would be a great pity if the competition were to be discontinued.”

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