Ulster Inter-provincial hurling manager Gregory O'Kane has questioned whether the Gaelic Player's Association proposal of a united ‘Team Ulster' to take part in Inter-county competition, would serve the greater good of hurling in the province.
The motion came prior to the Annual All-Stars banquet and awards ceremony during a meeting of GPA representatives. It was actually proposed by an Antrim delegate, but seems unlikely to be taken further.
Ironically, former Antrim and Dunloy stalwart O'Kane is the manager of the team for the forthcoming Inter-provincial series when they take on the might of Liam Sheedy's Munster side.
“I've actually heard this debate going about. It would probably be along the lines of rugby, that an Inter-provinces team would be picked in rugby terms.
“That would probably be the road an Ulster team would be thinking. Individually as counties, we can only get to a certain level. People are probably thinking that collectively they could improve over a period of a few years. It's a debate worth having, but would players be willing to forfeit their identity of their own county? It's hard to say.”
Ultimately, fielding a 'Team Ulster' in All-Ireland competition would probably spell the end of each individual county competing as themselves. Therefore, if only one player from a recognised developing hurling county — such as Monaghan for example — were to make the Ulster squad, it would mean that the other 29 players on the county squad would not have the opportunity of hurling at any higher level than what they have with their club, a point not lost on O'Kane.
“You are really forming elitism within Ulster hurling in a way.
“Not everybody is going to play for Ulster, like twenty lads can play for Fermanagh, Monaghan and Donegal.
“Whereby, if you bring that down to the elitist route, effectively you are denying people playing hurling, when we need more and more boys playing hurling.”