The notion that the participation of university teams in the Power NI Dr McKenna Cup could be terminated has been dispelled by the Ulster Council’s Head of Public Affairs Ryan Feeney.
The withdrawal of Queen’s just prior to the start of the current competition caused considerable uncertainty but the Council decided to proceed with just three teams in Section B.
But a detailed review of the competition will be undertaken after next Saturday’s final between Tyrone and Monaghan has been staged and the Ulster Council plans to make the event even more attractive next year.
“Even though Queen’s pulled out of the competition which led to suggestions that it might lose some of its appeal because of a reduced number of fixtures, crowds have remained on a par with last year and we are particularly pleased with the response to our family ticket scheme,” says Feeney.
He points out those followers who purchased season tickets will now be able to watch Sunday’s final for just £4.
“Last Sunday people were able to see the two semi-finals for £9 and that’s great value for money by any standards,” says Feeney.
And he believes that the McKenna Cup has gained considerably in status in recent years.
“More and more managers are turning their backs on challenge matches and this being the case the McKenna Cup offers a competitive environment in January which allows all managers to assess their squads in preparation for the league,” points out Feeney.
“And it should not be forgotten that the competition also offers university teams the ideal platform for which to prepare for the Sigerson Cup. They derive great benefits from their participation.”
The early-season competitive programme has already been hailed by bosses such as Mickey Harte, Brian McIver and Peter Canavan and although they and others have engaged in experimentation, the majority of teams had set their sights on winning the trophy.
“If you look back over the recent history of the McKenna Cup you will see that teams such as Donegal and Tyrone who have won the trophy have gone on to much greater success in a championship context,” states Feeney.
“I know people will say that teams don’t want to peak too early in the year but all managers like to inculcate a winning habit within their teams and their mantra would appear to be the earlier, the better.”
Meanwhile, the Ulster Council will make a presentation to the Michaela Foundation during Saturday’s McKenna Cup final.
The presentation will represent the proceeds of the recent ‘Match for Michaela’ held at Casement Park, Belfast.
“This proved a significant event in the 2012 GAA calendar and we are looking forward to Saturday’s presentation,” adds Feeney.