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Martin Breheny: Ulster needs to change the record and say 'yes' for once

Here's a question to add to the growing list of quandaries currently unanswered: why is it that, at a time when Ulster is enjoying a boom on the playing fields, the province has become so negative elsewhere?

Let the Ireland-Australia International Rules series continue? No, no, no, chant Ulster?

Sign up to an Irish government deal to give grants to players? Absolutely not, say an Ulster contingent, anchored by a non-elected and grandiosely-titled group, 'Of One Belief'.

Rent Croke Park for rugby and soccer? Not if we have our way, argued large tracts of Ulster, supported by, among others, Cork. My, my, how Cork would love if their only concerns nowadays were how best to lecture others on their disloyalty to an outdated viewpoint.

Cork's lecturing days are over, but it seems Ulster are merely powering up. They want the International Rules series scrapped and will support a Tyrone motion to that effect at Congress. Bizarrely, they want Australian Rules to be treated as a competitor sport, whatever that means.

Last Saturday's Ulster Convention voted 36-5 in support of scrapping International Rules, yet when the question arose of whether the link should continue at Central Council last year, Tyrone were the only Ulster county to vote against it.

What happened in the meantime? Was the dramatic change of heart due to the GAA not awarding the first game of this year's series to Casement Park?


It appears an attempt will be made to link the International Rules with Rule 44 (formerly Rule 42) which deals with the use of GAA grounds. If Ulster can successfully argue that Australian Rules is a competitor sport, they will be hoping for a vote on the basis that grounds can only be used for purposes "not in conflict with the aims and objects of the GAA".

Surely, we're not heading down that daft route again. It's to be assumed that much of Ulster will oppose any move to leave Rule 44 as it is, thus allowing Central Council, rather than Congress, to decide on whether Croke Park can be rented for rugby and soccer once Lansdowne Road is redeveloped.

Please, not more of the wearisome nonsense that punctuated the last debate which was finally settled by the good sense of ordinary GAA members who asserted themselves at the right time and ordered that Croke Park be opened up.

Counties -- including those from Ulster -- have done extremely well from the rent money which accrued in what has been a win-win situation, yet it seems we can now prepare for calls to lock up Croke Park again.

Ulster are also complaining that they are being under-funded by Central Council when compared to the other provinces. That will surprise Leinster, Munster and, most especially, Connacht, who don't have the revenue-earning capability of their rivals.

Besides, if Ulster are seeking to maximise their income why haven't they fixed the Tyrone-Armagh game for Croke Park on May 31?

Ulster's success level in football has been at a record high since the early '90s with five counties winning the All-Ireland senior title -- four for the first time -- and Sam Maguire heading north on no fewer than eight times. The underage and club scene has been equally successful while the overall coaching and development structures are first class.

Frankly, Ulster has never been doing better, so why so much negativity at policy level? Surely, they don't want to operate as an organisation within an organisation.

Belfast Telegraph

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