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McAviney puts forward club challenge

By John Campbell

Ulster Council chairman Martin McAviney is urging teams participating in the Ulster club football and hurling championships to follow the example of the counties that participated in the recent All-Ireland series.

Speaking at last night's provincial series launch at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh, McAviney challenged teams at all levels and in all codes to try and replicate the skill, pace and artistry which was on display at Croke Park throughout August and September.

"The Ulster club championships at the different levels continue to hold enormous appeal but the test is to keep improving playing standards," maintained McAviney.

"We saw some magnificent games, particularly in hurling, in recent weeks and this brought home to us just how high the bar has been raised in terms of how the games should be played.

"Naturally, we don't expect club teams to match the technique and cohesion of county teams but it is never harm to have a level to which to aspire."

McAviney's sentiments have already been echoed by several Ulster personalities, including the likes of Crossmaglen Rangers midfield ace Johnny Hanratty, Loughgiel hurling boss P. J. O'Mullan, Tyrone All-Ireland winner Sean Cavanagh and Ulster's football captain Darren Hughes.

O'Mullan, who revelled in the sublime skills on offer in last Saturday's All-Ireland hurling final replay between Clare and Cork, suggests that hurling will prove the real winner because of the quality of fare on offer.

And he believes that young players in particular have been given a new role model to follow.

"Any young club player in Ulster would surely love to have been Shane O'Donnell last weekend," observes O'Mullan.

"Three goals in twenty minutes for Clare – not a bit of wonder he said afterwards that he was still in dreamland!"

Ulster Council PRO John Connolly confirmed that the integration of the football and hurling, camogie and ladies football championships had proved a huge success over the past two years.

"We are now going into a third year with all these different codes singing from the same hymn sheet and the benefits are there for all to see," he said.

"The Ulster club championships are the envy of other provinces and I have no doubt that over the course of the next number of weeks we will have a lot of excellent games."

The Ulster Council's policy of providing a value for money ticket facility is proving a boon, according to Connolly.

"I think that in these difficult times, if you can offer a product that is keenly priced then you will see the fans pour in. We are confident that our crowds will be at least on a par with last year's."

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