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Strike a last resort says Farrell

By John Campbell

GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell is expecting 90 per cent of inter-county hurlers and footballers to vote in favour of strike action over the grants issue impasse.

The ballot of inter-county players closed yesterday and the early indications are that the vote in favour will be around 90 per cent, a figure which reflects the widespread dismay among players unhappy at the failure of the Government and the GAA to deliver on grants to inter-county players.

More than 1,800 players have been balloted by the GPA, and unless the deadlock is broken in the coming days, the first nationwide strike in the 123-year history of the GAA will become a reality early next week.

"I would imagine having done our homework beforehand and having all squads contacted and reported back to us, I don't think there will be an issue on it," Farrell claimed on the result of the vote.

"That's what we are led to believe anecdotally, but we will have to wait until the ballot to confirm that. We are leaving all that to the auditors to ensure that everything is above board and transparent."

He added: "It is very much a last resort and the players do not want to engage in this kind of activity, but nonetheless if it needs to be, it needs to be."

Meanwhile, Tyrone football kingpins Dromore are sweating on the fitness of two of their key players ahead of their first ever AIB Ulster Club championship match against Down's Mayobridge at Healy Park, Omagh on Sunday.

Former county panellist Barry Collins is struggling with a back injury, while highly-rated young defender Ronan McNabb has a hamstring problem ahead of the Healy Park showdown.

Mayobridge have been boosted by the return to full fitness of star forward Benny Coulter, who made a surprise substitute appearance for Ulster in last Saturday's inter-provincial final win over Munster at Croke Park.

Coulter has recovered from ligament damage he sustained in the drawn Down senior football championship final against Longstone, and is expected to come face-to-face with Tyrone corner back Ryan McMenamin in Sunday's game.

Coulter has made a useful contribution to Mayobridge's county championship title success and will obviously pose a big threat to Dromore's ambitions of advancing in the provincial competition.

Queen's University manager Aidan O'Rourke believes that the tug-of-war between colleges and county teams over players will once again overshadow the Dr McKenna Cup competition in 2008.

Universities have first call on players for the popular Ulster pre-season competition, but former Armagh All-Ireland winner O'Rourke fears this will not stop a repeat of this year's McKenna Cup controversy which led to Tyrone being stripped of their title over the unauthorised use of two university players in the final against Donegal.

"The noises we are getting from counties already is that they are emotionally blackmailing the players at this stage," said O'Rourke.

Belfast Telegraph


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