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Ulster boss Kernan insists inter-pros series is worth saving and has to be moved

By John Campbell

ULSTER team boss Joe Kernan is urging the GAA authorities to find a new slot in the fixtures calendar for the much-maligned inter-provincial football championship – again.

Kernan, who will be forced to field a weakened side against Leinster in Sunday's semi-final at Pairc Tailteann, Navan, believes that the competition could be accommodated in the latter stages of October rather than in February.

Settling on a fixed date for the tournament has presented the fixtures planners with what appears to have been a semi-permanent headache and while Kernan maintains that he has no desire to "rock the boat", nonetheless he is keen to see the competition being moved to a more favourable period in the calendar.

"I am aware that this particular competition has been staged at different dates over recent years but I feel the time has come to give it a fixed slot," insists Kernan.

"As far as I see it, the powers that be are just anxious to get the competition out of the way as early as possible.

"But they are not taking into account the fact that many players have still to link up with their county squads and a number of others are injured, some of them likely to be out of action for some time."

"I don't want to rock the boat but I do think that a little more regard could be given to the players. They are quite heavily committed at the moment. There are Sigerson Cup and Allianz League games taking place."

And Kernan's frustration with the attitude of the powers-that-be becomes rather more evident when he vehemently adds: "Look, let's give the inter-pro series, try that for two or three years and if it doesn't work out, then pull the plug on it altogether."

Kernan (pictured) robustly dismisses the theory that players are indifferent to the inter-pro series – in contrast, he indicates that interest within the current Ulster squad is "as good as ever."

While he is missing a number of what might be regarded as regulars including Conor Gormley, Joe McMahon, Brendan Donaghy and Aaron Kernan, he is nonetheless delighted to see an infiltration of fresh faces to the Ulster ranks.

"It's tremendously exciting for us to have players like Niall Morgan, Eoin Donnelly, Darren McCurry, Martin Dunne, Rory Dunne and Conor Clarke on board," comments Ulster chief Kernan.

"They represent the new breed of Ulster players and they have the bit between their teeth in terms of trying to maintain the province's successful run in the competition."

Indeed Ulster will be going for a third successive title but Kernan is looking no further than Sunday's showdown with a Leinster side that will be backboned by Dublin, Kildare and Meath players.

"Ulster has always taken the inter-pro series very seriously indeed and it's a case of same again this year. We have boys coming into the squad who will be very hungry for inter-provincial championship medals and who I have no doubt will be proud to represent their province," he said.

And even though the perception is that the competition is engulfed in apathy, Kernan points to the fact all the Ulster county bosses have been "more than co-operative" in terms of making their players available to his squad.

"The managers almost to a man told me that they would be delighted to see their players win inter-provincial championship medals with Ulster and if that's not a ringing endorsement of the competition, then I don't know what is," maintains Kernan.

"The managers have been more than co-operative and I could not have asked for better support from them," he added.

Kernan's squad is drawn from seven counties in all with only Antrim and Armagh not represented. Last year Ulster defeated Munster in the final and while Kernan is missing several of the players who recorded this feat, nevertheless he feels his existing squad can carve their names with pride in their own special way.

"I think we have a lot of talent within the squad. And while Leinster will be strong, we will not be fearful.

"We have leaders in our team and I think they can help to plot success for us," adds Kernan.

Ulster Squad: D Givney, E Keating, R Dunne, Cian Mackey (Cavan), C McKaigue, J Kielt, S L McGoldrick (Derry), N McGee, E Magee, K Lacey, M McHugh, M Murphy (Donegal), M Poland, K McKernan (Down), R McCluskey, E Donnelly, R Jones (Fermanagh), R Beggan, C Walshe, C McManus, K Hughes (Monaghan), P Harte, S Cavanagh, N Morgan, C Clarke, C Cavanagh, M Donnelly, D McCurry (Tyrone).

Belfast Telegraph

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