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McEniff confident ahead of inter-pros

By John Campbell

Ulster team manager Brian McEniff has rapped out a defiant message as he steps up his preparations for the forthcoming Martin Donnelly inter-provincial football competition.

No Ulster team has reached the Bank of Ireland All Ireland football semi-finals for three years but McEniff dismisses suggestions that this is indicative of declining standards here.

"If you look at the performances of Monaghan and Derry in particular this year, it can be seen that there is every reason for confidence. The inter-provincial series this year will have a life of its own because we will not be hampered because of preparations for the International Rules matches that has been the case in recent years," said McEniff.

His Ulster side will make history, too, when they face Connacht in the semi-final on October 20.

The match is scheduled for MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey and will be the first major game to be staged under the impressive new floodlights there.

"This will be an interesting challenge for the team given that we lost out to Leinster last year. Obviously there are a lot of good players at Ulster and we will be staging a couple of trial games before confirming the squad and selecting the team," confirms McEniff.

The former Donegal All Ireland winning boss maintains that Ulster can mount a serious challenge for the Sam Maguire Cup next year - but only if certain conditions pertain.

"Monaghan will have to build on the form they showed this year, Derry will require even greater self-belief and if Tyrone can remain injury-free they will represent a big threat to everyone," predicts McEniff.

He expects his native Donegal to bounce back following their ignominious eclipse by Monaghan in the All Ireland Qualifiers, too. But he suggests that Armagh will undergo a transitional period while Fermanagh, he feels, may need to introduce some new faces to bolster their push for honours.

Antrim, Cavan and Down, he believes, have yet to prove they have the all-round playing resources necessary to push for silverware.

"Monaghan just failed to get over the line against Kerry last month while Derry were just as unlucky against Dublin. I don't think Ulster sides were that far away from making it into the last four of the All Ireland but it requires a huge level of performance to achieve this," he said.

McEniff took over as Ulster team boss in 1983 and since then has presided over 13 Railway Cup triumphs.

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