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McGrath gets boost as players stand up for Ulster

By John Campbell

Ulster team manager Peter McGrath has no intention of wringing his hands in despair because some notable players happen to be unavailable for the forthcoming inter-provincial football championship.

Instead McGrath, fiercely dedicated to upholding Ulster's proud status in the competition, hails what he views as "the tremendous commitment" of a substantial body of players who are prepared to throw their weight behind what will be a concerted drive to lift the title.

"When you look at it, a large number of inter-county players had demanding seasons and then had to go back to their clubs and give everything in the club championships so you can see why many might want to opt out of any inter-pro involvement," says McGrath.

"This being the case, I think that the commitment which players from the various counties are bringing to the table for this series is highly laudable."

McGrath's squad faced Fermanagh at the Tyrone Centre of Excellence at Garvaghey last night in a warm-up game and will have another get-together next week.

There may be a handful of luminaries missing but McGrath takes considerable satisfaction from the fact that a corps of players from different counties remain fully focused on the drive for provincial glory.

Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte, Niall Morgan and Tiernan McCann form the Tyrone contingent; Tomás Corrigan, Declan McCuskey and Eoin Donnelly are representing Fermanagh; Tony Kernan and Stefan Campbell will carry the flag for Armagh; while Niall McKeever is among Antrim's brigade.

McGrath is particularly impressed by the attitude of Slaughtneil duo Chrissy McKaigue and Brendan Rogers.

"They were very keen to play for Ulster but their team is playing in the All-Ireland Championship quarter-final in Greenford in London on Saturday week and that rules them out. They have been in touch with me expressing their regret that they can't be with us - you can't ask for a better attitude than that," reveals McGrath.

"Ulster has always taken the inter-provincial championship very seriously and I would hope to see this fine tradition maintained when the action gets under way. Players still see it as an honour to pull on the provincial jersey no matter what anyone else thinks.

"I think that will be fully reflected when the matches come round and we will certainly be giving it everything."

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