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Murphy to protect provincial clashes

By John Campbell

Ulster Council secretary Danny Murphy believes that, while moves to streamline the championship fixtures programme in order to ensure a more equable spread of games are to be welcomed, the importance of the provincial championships has been forcibly underlined this summer.

Murphy contends that the Ulster football and the Munster hurling championships provided a level of entertainment that was "on a par with anything that could be produced in any other sport."

And he is anxious that the primacy of the provincial series should be maintained at all costs.

"There is absolutely no doubt that the respective provincial championships fulfil a very important role in our annual fixtures calendar," states Murphy, "Anyone who still harbours doubt about their value has only to look again at the ecstatic scenes which greeted Limerick's win in the Munster hurling championship and the sheer joy of the thousands of Monaghan fans out on the Clones pitch following their team's victory over Donegal."

Monaghan's first Ulster title in 25 years proved the icing on what was an extremely appetising Ulster championship cake and Murphy now believes that a "more open" competition could ensue in the foreseeable future.

"While Armagh and Tyrone have tended to dominate the competition since 1999, I think that there are now several teams who are equipped to make a pitch for the title in the future and that is hugely encouraging," points out Murphy.

He adds: "The success of teams like Donegal and Monaghan in Ulster over this past couple of years will undoubtedly prove a spur for other sides to follow in their footsteps. It will become a more open competition, I feel."

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