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Business end of Ulster Shield is overshadowed as Tyrone and Derry pull out

By John Campbell

The concerted bid by the Ulster Council to nurture hurling in the province is certainly not eliciting the desired response from some quarters.

The withdrawal of not one but two teams tarnished the Ulster Senior Shield to a great extent, the competition having been won by Donegal yesterday.

The Tir Conaill side beat Monaghan by 5-13 to 2-14 at Brewster Park, Enniskillen but the unexpected departure of Tyrone and Derry has certainly provided food for thought for the sport's administrators.

One prominent official said last night: "The Ulster Championship itself, never mind the Shield, appears to have lost any allure it had for players.

"It's really a question of timing. The Christy Ring Cup is played before the provincial competition but when a team exit the second tier of the All-Ireland Championship, they lose their appetite for the Ulster series. Maybe the whole timing of the Ulster Championship should be looked at with a view to playing it earlier."

For their part, Monaghan took little satisfaction from reaching yesterday's final without tasting semi-final action because of Tyrone's walk-out. In the event, they were well beaten by a fired-up Donegal, who have been progressing steadily.

And the headache for those charged with attempting to provide a coherent and meaningful fixtures itinerary in Ulster did not end there.

Armagh were unable to field a team to face Down in yesterday's Ulster Minor Championship semi-final and now the Mourne side will go straight through to the final to meet Antrim.

Ironically, Armagh are already through to the senior championship final in which they will face Antrim yet the county's mechanism at under-age level appears to have hit a temporary blip.

The young Saffrons turned up the heat against Derry in the other semi-final to win by 4-23 to 3-11 after extra-time at Owenbeg yesterday.

The teams were deadlocked at the end of normal time by which stage Antrim had racked up 2-13 while Derry had recorded 3-10 but the Saffrons streaked clear in the second period of extra-time.

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