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Cause for concern as Ulster sides hit for six

By John Campbell

It is only mid-July, the championship season has still to engage top gear and yet no fewer than six Ulste#r counties have been sent packing from the All Ireland series.

A season that held rich promise for some has delivered only heartbreak and severely dented the province's image as a football power base.

Cavan, Derry, Fermanagh, Antrim, Down and Tyrone have all taken their leave of the championship stage, some in deeply depressing circumstances.

The Ulster finalists Donegal and Monaghan along with Armagh are now the province's only representatives left in the race to the All-Ireland title.

The demise of Cavan and Derry has been particularly poignant. Derry reached the Allianz League final in which they lost to Dublin but they had still been expected to make a strong bid to recapture the Ulster title for the first time since 1998.

Instead, they fell to Donegal in the quarter-final and, in a seismic shock, they subsequently limped out of the qualifiers to lowly Longford.

Down's 10-point defeat to Kildare on Sunday clearly left manager James McCartan shellshocked and he is now considering his future.

And Tyrone's surprising fall to Armagh means that they too exit the championship stage at an early juncture.

The Red Hands normally prove a force in the qualifiers but their pedigree in the competition deserted them this year against the old enemy.

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