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Key sponsors to leave GAA

By John Campbell

The GAA will be back in the market for a new sponsor for the All-Ireland football championships at the end of the year as it has emerged that Ulster Bank are unlikely to renew their arrangement after a six-year involvement.

Ulster Bank first came on board as football championship sponsors in 2008 in a three-way deal, which also involved Vodafone and Toyota.

It was part of a new format where the hurling and football championships each had three backers, replacing the previous long-standing arrangement which had Guinness and Bank of Ireland as title sponsors.

Guinness continued as hurling sponsors under the new model and were joined by RTE and Etihad Airlines.

RTE were replaced by Centra a few years ago, while Guinness finished their 17-year involvement with the hurling championship at the end of last year.

They were replaced by Liberty Insurance earlier this year.

Toyota and Vodafone were replaced as football sponsors by SuperValu and Eircom a few years ago, but Ulster Bank continued.

However, it's now understood that they are planning to end their link-up with the championship after this year's football final.

The departure of Ulster Bank would result in no banking involvement with All-Ireland championship sponsorship for the first time in 20 years as Bank of Ireland were the sole football backers prior to the introduction of the new multi-model five years ago.

Bank of Ireland and Guinness were the first championship sponsors following the GAA's decision to open up the premier competitions to commercial backers.

AIB have sponsored the All-Ireland club championship for 22 years and are committed to continuing for at least another four years.

Allianz have been National League sponsors for 20 years and are committed until 2015 under their latest agreement.

* KARL Lacey is back in the Donegal line-up for Sunday's All-Ireland quarter-final meeting with Mayo.

He was left out of the All-Ireland champions' starting 15 that defeated Laois in Carrick-on-Shannon but came on as a substitute for Paddy McGrath in the second half. Malin clubman Declan Walsh drops to the bench.

Donegal: P Durcan; P McGrath, N McGee, E McGee; F McGlynn, K Lacey, A Thompson; N Gallagher, R Kavanagh; R Bradley, R McHugh, David Walsh; P McBrearty, M Murphy, C McFadden.

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