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Ulster must look on the bright side, insists Marsden


By John Campbell

One of Ulster's leading administrators has moved to dispel the pessimism, frustration and disappointment which have engulfed the province since Tyrone's dramatic fall from grace against Dublin on Sunday.

Diarmuid Marsden, an All-Ireland winner with Armagh in 2002 and now Head of Club and Community Development with the Ulster Council, believes that "all-consuming negativity" can in itself have a detrimental effect on efforts to improve Ulster's fortunes.

Rather than curse the darkness, Marsden is prepared to light a candle of hope for the future.

"Everywhere you go there's weeping and gnashing of teeth at the minute, and I suppose that's understandable in one sense given what happened at Croke Park at the weekend," admits Marsden.

"But I think everything has to be viewed in context. Yes, Tyrone were well beaten but, if they were, they did their best against a superior force. Yet I still believe that Mayo will make a good fist of things in the final against Dublin because they will have absorbed vital information from last Sunday's game.

"I have been very impressed with Tyrone's fitness, application and fitness level this year and they certainly have not become a bad team on the back of one performance."

Marsden, one of the most skilful players of the Noughties and someone who was viewed to be ahead of his time, is urging players, officials and supporters in the province to dwell on the positives.

"Tyrone won the All-Ireland Under-17 title on Sunday and Derry are through to the All-Ireland minor final," he stresses. "Don't forget, Donegal have boasted a very good Under-21 side recently, and then you have teams like Down and Armagh who have successfully blooded fresh talent at senior level this year.

"On top of that there is great work being done at under-age level generally, although we might have to exercise a little patience before we see the fruits of this at senior level."

Marsden nonetheless harbours concerns that teams might now despair of making headway in the All-Ireland Senior Championship and thus scale down their efforts to reach the top.

"I know it costs a great deal of money to train and prepare county teams, with six-figure sums mentioned regularly in this connection, but I don't think counties should ever lose sight of the fact that they must keep striving to be the best," insists Marsden.

"This has always been Mickey Harte's mantra and you have to admire the level of success he has achieved. Even in the immediate aftermath of Tyrone's embarrassing loss on Sunday he was quickly promising that both he and his team would be back, and I think every other county should take their lead from that."

Tyrone last won the All-Ireland title in 2008, and 'Sam' last came to rest in the province in 2012 when Donegal reigned supreme. And while Marsden is only too well aware of the popular theory that Dublin will remain the dominant force for the foreseeable future, he is keen to see other counties renew their efforts to challenge their authority.

"Sure, you have to admire what Dublin have achieved and will achieve," reflects Clan na Gael club legend Marsden. "But this does not mean that other teams should give up the ghost. Rather, they should re-double their efforts to get up there alongside Dublin and Mayo in particular. I would have to say that I think Kerry have gone back a little bit and they are not the force they were.

"Look at the heartbreak Mayo have suffered over the years and yet they keep coming back to the top table mad keen to get their hands on 'Sam'.

"They have played nine championship matches this year but have nothing to show for their efforts yet. And they last won the All-Ireland in 1951. Is it any wonder that everyone outside of Dublin will be rooting for them on the third Sunday in September?"

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