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Peter McGrath predicts open Ulster Championship race

By John Campbell

Few managers have as much affinity with the Ulster Championship as Peter McGrath.

The former Down boss. who is currently in charge of Fermanagh. took his native county to provincial and All-Ireland titles in 1991 and 1994 and is regarded as one of the best team bosses ever to have emerged from the province.

While Tyrone's Mickey Harte is the longest-serving 'one county' man, McGrath's track record will stand up to the closest scrutiny.

So when he maintains that the 2014 championship will be "much more open than usual" his sentiments carry considerable currency. "If you look at it, you have Derry in there who reached the Division One final in the league, Donegal and Monaghan who contested the Division Two final, Cavan who reached the Division Three final and that list still does not include Tyrone or Down," points out McGrath.

"So it is quite clear that the quality is there. The main counties are in there and they are playing well. Maybe teams like Antrim, Armagh and Fermanagh are not included among the first five or six in terms of the honours race but that's not really surprising."

However, Armagh have won seven titles and Tyrone five since 1999.

McGrath added: "Maybe in the past the competition might have been deemed to be open but obviously in more recent years Armagh and Tyrone have tended to be the dominant forces although there has been a changing of the guard lately with Donegal having won a couple of titles and then Monaghan ending a 25-year wait last year.

"This all adds spice to this year's competition and for the first time in recent years it would be truthfully said that any one of a number of teams could lift the title. That's not idle talk, it's a fact."

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