Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

Universities must be granted students, warns college boss

John Farrell, President of Jordanstown GAA club, has revealed he has compiled a report for the Ulster Council to consider, concerning the rules currently governing player eligibility for the Dr McKenna Cup.

As someone who originally negotiated with the Ulster Council to include third-level institutions in the McKenna Cup, Farrell admits that the current situation of county managers retaining their students “hasn't worked out”.

But he feels the Ulster Council could take a leaf out of how other provinces manage their pre-season tournaments.

“I have done a report for the Ulster Council to come up at convention next month,” Farrell said.

“I will be asking that immediately there is a sub-committee set up to look at the whole thing, to sit down with the colleges and negotiate because there are rules and regulations in place in Leinster, Munster and Connacht and they seem to work very well, and we need them adopted here.”

In one other competition, universities are entitled to the first three picks from student players, but no county can lose more than six players in total. Such measures could apply in the McKenna Cup, Farrell feels.

Jordanstown manager Adrian McGuckin must have felt frustrated as he watched Barry Tierney, Ryan McKenna, Mattie Donnelly, Dean McNally and Conor McAliskey put in good performances for Tyrone against their university.

Jordanstown also have Ciaran McGinley out through injury, while the returning Peter Carragher hooked up with Armagh for the campaign.

There are a number of Crossmaglen players they are also keen on, but they have their own concerns in attempting to retain the All-Ireland club title.

“I think everybody wants the competition to thrive — and I believe we did enhance and add to it,” continued Farrell.

But he cautioned: “The colleges can't stay in the competition as whipping boys.

“Unless we are at full strength we are going to be whipping boys, and unless we are at full strength it is no good to us going into Sigerson,” he added.

The universities are further weakened by the rule imposed by Central Council that freshers cannot play for their senior college team, but there are no such restrictions for county teams.

It has led to anomalies such as Patrick McBrearty playing Ulster Championship football while still a schoolboy, yet Jordanstown cannot pick a player like college fresher Conor McAtamney, who played against them for his county, Derry.

“The idea (behind the law) was burn-out, but as it stands they are not allowed to play for their college and they are allowed to play for their county,” explained Farrell.

“Again, that's a Croke Park rule and they are going to have to look at that.”

Jordanstown open their Sigerson campaign on Tuesday week when they face University College Cork in an away fixture in round one.

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