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Time to sort out 'subsidiary' mess, says Donegal manager Jim McGuinness

Jim McGuinness has threatened to pull his team out of the Dr McKenna Cup next year if their third-level college players are not available to them.

The Donegal boss has clashed directly with DCU boss Niall Moyna this week over the availability of Martin McElhinney.

And John Maughan, who has coached NUI Galway to tonight's FBD League final against his native Mayo, rowed into the ongoing college-versus-county argument yesterday, saying the battle for student players at this time of year has become ridiculous.

"I've seen huge pressure put on them by inter-county managers. These are young men who don't want to let people down and it's just not fair on them," Maughan said, acknowledging that the problem has been exacerbated because of the introduction of the inter-county 'closed season'.

"Some county managers are very reasonable and you can talk to them and find a solution," Maughan continued.

"But we have had students who have refused to play with us in the FBD this year because they are under such pressure to play for their counties and that's an absolute shame."

Maughan insists that a solution can be found, if managers will communicate properly with one another.

"We wanted a Sligo player for a game earlier this week, but Tomas (Tierney, his right-hand man with NUIG) spoke with the Sligo management and we agreed not to play him and made him available to them.

"We are trying to prepare them for championship football year, while the county teams have them doing heavy endurance sessions, which is totally alien to college players at this time of year," he said.

A two-time Sigerson Cup winner with NUIG himself, Maughan added: "In my college days, we just didn't train with the county until it was over. There was an understanding that you were already doing enough with the college to keep you ticking over."

Connacht, like Leinster and Munster, operate a system whereby county teams can have 'first-choice' on just three 'college' players for the subsidiary provincial competitions, but Ulster had to abandon that rule this year after opposition from some county managers.

Maughan's side open their Sigerson campaign against St Mary's Belfast next Wednesday and because of that, NUIG requested that the FBD final be brought forward to tonight in Castlebar.

NUIG, who have already beaten UL in a big relegation match midweek, will still field their first-choice team tonight for what is a repeat of last year's FBD final, which was won by Mayo.

The students have lost post-grad students and Mayo seniors Alan Dillon and Peadar Gardiner this season, but have come through unbeaten with a side that includes Mayo senior Jason Doherty, Tipperary's Ciaran McDonald, Sligo's Stephen Gilmartin and Offaly's John Moloney.

The college-versus-county row has now prompted Donegal boss McGuinness to say: "I think we are going to have to seriously consider whether or not we enter the Dr McKenna Cup next year if we don't have the college players available to us.

"It (the current system) is certainly not working and I would urge the GAA to look at the whole subsidiary competition question."

Mayo have named a strong starting 15 for tonight's final and their subs include recent four-goal hero Danny Kirby, as well as Ballintubber's Cillian O'Connor and Jason Gibbons.

MAYO (SF v NUIG) - D Clarke; K Higgins, G Cafferkey, L Keegan; P Gardiner, D Vaughan, R Feeney; B Moran, A O'O'Shea; K McLoughlin, A Dillon, P Harte; A Freeman, A Moran, C Mortimer.

Belfast Telegraph