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McKinley's vote of confidence in lesser lights

By John Campbell

Ulster Hurling team manager Dominic McKinley finds himself shorn of several of his frontline troops for tonight's Martin Donnelly Inter-Provincial Championship semi-final against Connacht at MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey (6.00).

The Ulster Club semi-final replay between Ballycran and Dunloy and the fact that Kevin Lynch's players are unavailable because of their team's appearance in the forthcoming provincial club decider means that McKinley has had to dig deep to fill a number of key positions.

His line-up is peppered with rather unfamiliar names yet the players who come into this category are afforded a golden opportunity to show their wares on the inter-pro stage.

Armagh duo Declan Coulter and Paul McCormack get their big chance in attack alongside Donegal's Damien Cullen while Terry McIntosh represents Tyrone - a rare appearance by an O'Neill County player at this level.

Defensively, Ulster carry a rather more experienced hue.

Michael McCambridge and Karl McKeegan have been round a few corners with Antrim while Down's Graham Clarke is not just the best custodian in the province, he's one of the tops in the sport overall.

Neil McManus emerged as a player of rare quality with Antrim earlier this year and now this 19-year-old university student can allow his talents to flourish on the bigger stage.

Declan Coulter's scoring exploits highlighted Armagh's progress into the Nicky Rackard Cup final in which they were beaten by Roscommon.

The westerners, of course, are in essence Galway in disguise - a team that encompasses experience, youth, craft and flair.

"Obviously they will be favourites but I think this Ulster team is capable of giving a good account of themselves. Maybe we lack overall experience but we certainly won't lack effort or commitment," insists manager McKinley who is assisted by his Antrim management colleague Terence McNaughton.

An Ulster win under the impressive Ballybofey floodlights is more of a remote possibility rather than a probability but where there is a will, there is a way.

Belfast Telegraph


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