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Nomination list is an Ulster who's who

By John Campbell

Today may be the first day of a New Year but it's also the last chance to nominate players for possible inclusion in the Ulster Minor Club Tournament Allstars team.

The team when finally selected will contain the fifteen best players in their positions over the 25-year history of the competition which has gone from strength to strength since its launch in 1982.

When the final whistle sounds in today's decider between Coalisland and Cavan Gaels, the curtain will simultaneously come down on the acceptance of nominees for the team.

The Minor Club Tournament has been hosted by the St Paul's club in west Belfast since its inception and Seamus Murray, one of the coordinators of the event, has already said that his club are delighted with the response they have received in terms of nominations.

"Obviously we have had to have a cut-off point to facilitate the actual team selection and to ensure that we will have adequate time in which to inform all 45 nominees who make the cut from whom the team will be chosen that they will be invited to our gala banquet to be held in the City Hall next month," explains Murray.

It's on February 16 that the Allstars team will be unveiled and the players honoured at the City Hall and the support which the tournament has received from the Northern Bank and Belfast City Council has been central to the Allstars concept.

Already the preliminary list of nominees, which is inching up towards the 200 mark, reads like a who's who of Ulster football. Armagh have a raft of players in the frame including Ger Houlahan, Benny Tierney, Oisin McConville, Francie Bellew, Ronan Clarke and Aaron Kernan while Tyrone names include those of the late Cormac McAnallen, Mattie McGleenan, Chris Lawn, Ger Cavlan and Brian McGuigan.

To date Derry have provided Joe Brolly, Kieran McKeever, Anthony Tohill, Geoffrey McGonigle and Johnny McBride while Fermanagh, not surprisingly, are represented by the Brewster brothers Paul and Tom as well as Barry Owens.

Karl Lacey, Manus Boyle and Barry McGowan are among those who have the chance to keep Donegal's name to the fore when the team selection is made while Antrim provide Paul McErlean, Stephen Mulvenna and Aidan Donnelly among others for consideration.

The final fifteen will be chosen by a selection panel comprising members of the Tennent's Ulster GAA Writers Association who will hold their preliminary meeting tomorrow night.

St Paul's club treasurer Billy McLarnon says: "Obviously the writers are going to have a very difficult task given the wealth of talent that will confront them.

"There are still some fairly prominent players who have taken part in the tournament over the years and have yet to be nominated so we could conceivably have a late rush of names."

Interestingly, Ulster's three current Vodafone Allstars € Ronan Clarke (Armagh), Barry Owens (Fermanagh) and Karl Lacey (Donegal) € are all included in the mix, providing further testimony to the fact that the St Paul's annual spectacular is certainly a fertile breeding ground for top talent.

"It's certainly something of a bonus to see these three players in the running to make the team. I think this shows as much as anything that the Ulster Minor Club Tournament is a significant platform on which youthful talent can initially flourish before going on to mature at senior level," says Billy McLarnon.

The St Paul's club plan to make next month's Allstar presentation banquet in the City Hall a gala affair and it would seem that upwards on 400 guests will be there to acclaim the Allstars line-up.

Belfast Telegraph


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