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Murphy and McManus ruled out of Ulster's inter-pro bid

By Declan Bogue

Ulster manager Pete McGrath will have to make do without the services of two of the best attackers in the game when they face Connacht in the Inter-Provincial series in a few weeks' time.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, McGrath revealed: "Players aren't available. I mean, Michael Murphy is taking a rest, Conor McManus takes a rest this time of the year and does rehab.

"You have to respect that. These guys have played a lot of football for their county and club. I suppose, the middle of December isn't the ideal time for any competition."

Donegal's Murphy is taking a break from football that has ruled him out of Martin McHugh's plans with Jordanstown pre-Christmas while McManus has ongoing injury issues.

Last year a spell of bad weather prevented the staging of the competition. The series, formerly known as The Railway Cup, has always been regarded with respect in Ulster, and the northern province tops the roll of honour with 31 titles.

McGrath has retained last year's backroom team of Tony Scullion of Derry and Armagh's Diarmuid Marsden, and they meet current holders Connacht on Saturday, December 10. The winners will then stay on in Dublin to face the other victorious semi-finalists in the final the following day.

In the meantime, there are get-togethers for the Ulster squad on November 24, December 1 and 8, while McGrath hopes to retain his captain with Fermanagh - Eoin Donnelly - as the provincial leader.

And while Ulster players have always treated the Inter-Provincial series as an honour to participate in, McGrath spells out how the attritional nature of a season in Gaelic football has left November and December as the window for players to get operations and conduct some rehab work.

"You take a county such as Fermanagh - Sean Quigley had an operation there for a Gilmore's Groin a fortnight ago, so he is unavailable. Barry Mulrone had to have a wee bit of surgery on his knee and he is just back doing a bit of light training so he is unavailable," he explained.

"I know my own players have issues with rehab and it is a fact of life for the county player."

He added: "Having said that, quite a few of the Tyrone guys have committed. The likes of Peter Harte and Tiernan McCann, Mattie Donnelly are all on board for the squad. They are fitting in well and keen to give it a go."

In recent years, finding a slot for the series in the GAA calendar has proven difficult.

However, McGrath is optimistic that with north Dublin's Parnell Park playing host, a decent attendance can be expected to breathe new life into an unloved concept.

"The fact that it is in Dublin, given all that has happened with it this last number of years, you would think it would get plenty of interest," said the Rostrevor man.

"And Parnell Park is a great pitch and a lovely stadium. We are looking forward to it."

The Ulster hurlers will be in action on the same weekend, and they will be managed by Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton.

Belfast Telegraph


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