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Ulster boss McGrath is relishing final challenge

By John Campbell

Ulster manager Peter McGrath is preparing to give a vote of confidence to the players who recorded a fine Inter-provincial Championship semi-final win over Munster for Saturday's decider against Connacht at Carrick-on-Shannon (2pm).

While former Down All-Ireland-winning boss McGrath is keen to see Ulster win the series, his side will now go head-to-head with a Connacht side which will be seeking back-to-back wins for the first time in over half a century.

"Obviously Connacht have a great incentive to come out on top but we would hope that we can maybe lift the title," said McGrath.

"I was very happy with the win over Munster. You have to accept that at this time of year fitness levels are not what they are going to be in August or September. I'm delighted that Ulster beat Munster and this has set us up for what I feel is a very interesting challenge against Connacht."

Several of the Ulster players made personal sacrifices to line out last Saturday, including busy pharmacist Tiarnan McCann who cut short a weekend in London to represent his province, and man of the match Peter Harte, who also fitted the game into a busy schedule.

The starting Ulster full-forward line of Conor McAliskey, Stefan Campbell and Tomás Corrigan scored 0-9 of Ulster's total of 3-17, with the goals coming from Harte, Enda Lynn and Aidan Breen.

Ulster will now seek to extend their record of series wins to 32 and, although the competition is being played against a background of considerable public apathy, this has not served to dilute the commitment and enthusiasm of the players, according to McGrath.

"Obviously you would love to see more people at the games but we are where we are," he said. "It is disappointing to see very small crowds at the semi-finals and the GAA authorities maybe need to take a look at the competition overall. I think a permanent slot in the calendar needs to be found for it and maybe this would help to arouse more public interest in the games."

It would certainly be appropriate if Ulster were to claim the title once again as the players are determined to honour the memory of the late Ulster Council secretary Danny Murphy, who died last week.

"Danny was utterly committed to the Ulster cause in every sense," added McGrath.

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