Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Ulster counties must look to their laurels

No fewer than three Ulster counties could potentially find themselves shunted into the Tommy Murphy Cup much against their wishes next year.

Antrim are already consigned to participating in the competition but now Fermanagh and Down face the threat of lining up in this 'lesser' arena.

And the reason is simple - but very unwelcome.

With Division Four sides from the National League again excluded from the All Ireland qualifiers, there is also the scenario that the two sides who drop down from Division Three of the League into Division Four will also automatically become Tommy Murphy Cup entrants.

And in this respect Down and Fermanagh will have to tread carefully.

Division Three already promises to be particularly competitive given that it includes teams such as Sligo, Louth, Longford, Wexford and Limerick.

Any or all of these sides are capable of making a strong push for promotion to Division Two.

Down blew hot and cold in this year's National League under Ross Carr while Fermanagh, who subsequently parted company with Charlie Mulgrew, were unable to achieve any level of consistency overall.

So two of the Division Three sides will find themselves in the comparative backwater of the Tommy Murphy Cup joining six from the following sides already making up Division Four - Antrim, Clare, Offaly, Carlow, Wicklow, London, Waterford, Kilkenny and Tipperary.

On the other side of the coin, the two teams who finish at the top of Division Three will gain promotion to Division Two and will go straight into the All Ireland qualifiers where, given their enhanced status, they will undoubtedly be treated with considerable respect.

Wicklow are the Tommy Murphy Cup holders and are shortly off on a celebration holiday to New York.

So maybe there is a ray of light at the end of the tunnel after all!

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