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Ulster boss Kernan's inter-provincial plight

By Martin Breheny

The timing of the inter-provincial championships has left managers with a problem as they attempt to organise the most basic preparatory work for the semi-finals next Sunday week.

With the second round of the Allianz Football League to be played this weekend, inter-provincial managers will have to wait until after that to get their squads together. Even then, it will probably be confined to one session.

Ulster football manager Joe Kernan said that he would get his squad together for the first time next Tuesday night, but wouldn't know precisely how many of his choices would be available until after the weekend's league action.

"It's far from an ideal situation. I'm a great supporter of the inter-provincials and am glad that it has been restored, but the timing certainly hasn't helped players or managers," said Kernan.

"If the semi-finals were played a week later and the finals on St Patrick's Day, it would be much better. I have always felt that the finals should return to St Patrick's Day. Play the All-Ireland club football final and the inter-provincial football final in Croke Park and the hurling finals in Thurles on the same day."

Kernan said that while every manager in Ulster was very co-operative, they had other concerns as they were getting their players ready for vital league games.

"We have always taken the inter-provincials very seriously in Ulster and all the county managers are doing their best to help me out, but their players have league commitments and can't think about the inter-pros until after next Sunday.

"I'm planning to get the Ulster squad together in Armagh next Tuesday night and, hopefully, will line up a game for them if I can get opposition. I just wish we could have a little more time to prepare for the semi-final."

Ulster, who won the football title when the inter-pros were last staged in 2009, play Connacht at Markievicz Park, Sligo, on Sunday week, while Leinster meet Munster in the other semi-final at Parnell Park. The hurling semi-finals on the same day feature Leinster v Munster at Nowlan Park and Connacht v Ulster in Ballinasloe.

The football final will be played on February 26, followed by the hurling decider a week later.

Several senior figures - both at Croke Park and provincial level - are keen to remove the inter-provincials from the schedule, but the latest attempt failed when Central Council voted last April to retain them.

However, the competitions, which continue to be sponsored by M Donnelly, were not played last year and surprise was expressed when they were fixed for late February/early March this year, which is the busiest time of the season.

The wisdom of that decision is now coming under serious scrutiny as managers struggle to fit in even one get-together.

Nor are county managers enamoured with the disruption as they would much prefer to have all their players available to them on weekends which are free of league activity, rather than playing for their provinces.

Belfast Telegraph

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