We'll take nothing for granted but Ulster can make it three in a row
Published 08/02/2013 | 06:59
I take great encouragement from the fact that the Ulster Council hosted a splendid launch of the inter-provincial football and hurling championships in Belfast on Monday.
This was a superbly stage-managed event which not only underpins the Council's commitment to what many cynics perceive to be an ailing competition but also helps to galvanise the enthusiasm of supporters from all parts of the province. It was great to see Tyrone boss Mickey Harte and Antrim manager Frank Dawson there to lend their support to the marketing exercise.
As Ulster football boss – and I know that I speak for hurling team manager Gregory O'Kane here as well – I appeal to fans to flock to the Athletic Grounds, Armagh on Sunday week and get behind both our provincial teams when they face up to Munster.
Anyone who harbours doubts about the validity or feasibility of the competitions should have been with me when I was conducting a trawl of my players in relation to their availability. Every player to a man unhesitatingly said 'yes' to my invitation to join the squad with the result that a strong bond has already been formed which augers well for our chances of making it into the final. We will be taking nothing for granted, of course. Munster have shown in the past that they are capable of sending out teams that, while not spliced with household names, are nonetheless capable of doing the business.
I have vivid memories of a closely-fought inter-provincial final in Armagh last year when Neil McGee scored a late goal that won the game for Ulster.
But earlier my team had come under immense pressure from a Munster attack that included David Tubridy (Clare), Gary Hurney (Waterford) and Ian Ryan (Limerick) and while they could not be said to be household names, they nonetheless caused a lot of headaches for our defence.
I am particularly keen to see Ulster make it three in a row in terms of titles and I think that we have the ability to do so.
Captain Darren Hughes is already giving a lead not just in motivating the players but in declaring that the competition has a bright future irrespective of what some people might think.
I would love to see the Ulster hurling side do well, too, as this would surely serve to give the sport a shot in the arm in this part of the world.