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Ryan Feeney slams provincial critics who have called for the abolition of the provincial Championships.

By John Campbell

Ryan Feeney, the Ulster Council's Head of Public Affairs, has launched a sharp broadside at critics who have called for the abolition of the provincial Championships.

Earlier in the summer, the clamour to discontinue the competitions increased following a series of lop-sided matches, particularly in the Munster football championship.

But as competitions in all four provinces gained in momentum, their quality, competitiveness and overall profile were transported onto a much higher plateau.

Now Feeney, very much at the heart of what was one of the most successful Ulster championships for many years, does not mince his words in upholding the status of the provincial competitions and their value in the overall fixtures calendar.

"I believe that the provincial competitions have an intrinsic role in the wider Championship programme and I am convinced that this role has been further enhanced this year," insists Feeney.

"While there were surely a few one-sided matches in the initial stages especially in Munster, these were very much the exception when set against some of the stupendous fare we have witnessed particularly here in Ulster where the Championship scaled a new height."

Feeney backs up his assertion by pointing to the absorbing Donegal v Down semi-final, the rivetting Cavan v Monaghan last four shoot-out and, not surprisingly, to last Sunday's enthralling provincial final when Monaghan achieved a victory over Donegal of fairy tale proportions.

"Let's be fair, too. The Dublin v Meath Leinster final held great appeal, Cork and Kerry served up another thriller in the Munster final and London provided a generous helping of sporting romance in Connacht," points out Feeney.

And in confirming that attendances at the Ulster series are up "substantially" on last year Feeney emphasises the continuing appeal of the Ulster final.

"We could have sold another 10,000 tickets for the decider had we had the capacity. Surely that says it all," states Feeney.

The final attracted 31,900 fans – a magnificent turnout considering that Monaghan, the rank outsiders at 6/1, had all but been written off prior to the game.

Feeney stresses just how much Monaghan's victory means to their players.

"Not every team can win an All-Ireland, but there is a decent chance that teams can make a good fist of maybe winning their provincial title," points out Feeney.

"Monaghan have done just that and you can be sure that their players, especially those who have toiled in the trenches for so long, will cherish their medals from Sunday's game until their dying day. And to me that is an excellent reason for retaining the provincial Championship."

Now the Farney county along with Cavan, Tyrone and Donegal remain standing in the race to 'Sam' with Feeney predicting that Monday's quarter-final draw could provide some very tasty match-ups.

"I think we are in for a real treat and it's terrific to see Ulster with four teams in the last 12. Hopefully when Saturday night comes round we will have that number in the last eight and that will surely help to fuel the Championship fire," adds Feeney.

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