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UUJ are hoping to set a high bar

By Barney McAleenan

Published 29/12/2015

Kitted out: UUJ players Kieran Hughes, Niall McKeever and Cailean O'Boyle pictured at the Sigerson Cup launch
Kitted out: UUJ players Kieran Hughes, Niall McKeever and Cailean O'Boyle pictured at the Sigerson Cup launch

UUJ joint manager Barney McAleenan has particular reason to be grateful that a compromise has been reached which will see university teams retain the services of their inter-county players for the Dr McKenna Cup competition, which gets under way on Sunday.

The Jordanstown side are currently powered by a rich seam of talent that embraces joint captains Niall McKeever (Antrim) and Stephen Sheridan (Armagh) along with Caolan O'Boyle (Derry), Kieran Hughes (Monaghan), Ryan McHugh (Donegal) and Ethan Rafferty (Armagh) among others.

And with matches in Section A against Cavan, Monaghan and Armagh coming in quick succession next month, McAleenan is anxious to avail of his full resources in preparation for the forthcoming Sigerson Cup competition.

"We could hardly have asked for tougher games than those which we will face over the next few weeks," smiled McAleenan.

"We are up against Ulster champions Monaghan in our opening game at Clones before we take on Armagh and Cavan.

"These are all away matches for us, of course, but they will certainly form great preparation for the Sigerson Cup.

"That's the competition on which we are strongly focused.

"We know how difficult it is going to be because I watched the recent Ryan Cup final between Dublin City University and UCD and it was a very high quality game which featured a lot of accurate kick-passing.

"We have to be able to match sides like these and that's why doing well in the McKenna Cup is so important to us."

McAleenan hopes to have a strong side on duty against Monaghan on Sunday in order to gain a further insight into his players' capabilities.

"The challenge for us as management is to get the boys playing as a cohesive unit," he added.

"These three McKenna Cup matches are big, big challenges for us but they are great games in terms of preparation for the Sigerson Cup.

"We know that we have a talented group of players but then so too do teams like UCD, DCU and UCC all of whom will be pressing very strongly to win the Sigerson competition so we know what to expect."

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