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Ulster chief has quick fix Cup plan

By Declan Bogue

Ulster Council President Martin McAviney has revealed that the situation regarding player eligibility for the Dr McKenna Cup is something that will be dealt with in the short-term.

This news is sure to give some encouragement to Queen's, University of Ulster Jordanstown and St Mary's, who have all, in some way, spoke of their dissatisfaction with the situation at present.

Speaking at Saturday's Ulster Convention at the Hilgrove Hotel, Monaghan, President McAviney reiterated that the Ulster Council remain committed to retaining the college teams in the McKenna Cup, stating: "Following a report from a review group under the Chairmanship of Aogan O'Fearghail, we asked the Ulster Interprovincial manager Joe Kernan to act as a mediator in order to ensure that counties – and in particular county managers – adhere to the spirit of the competition, ensuring that the Universities have first call.

"This process had limited success with only three counties fully complying. This now leads us to a crossroads where we must find a way to having agreement from all teams involved. As a first step I will address this issue at the next County Chairman's meeting."

In a move that may appease some in the hurling fraternity, McAviney also added that the Council have a clear vision for hurling, despite the postponement of the 2013 Ulster final, for which he acknowledges a level of responsibility.

"Claims have been made in the media and also, more disturbingly, by units of our Association, both club and county, that Ulster GAA does not care about hurling and treats hurling as second class.

"I strongly refute these allegations and ask that they please read our Hurling Development Report before making false allegations.

"That being said I accept responsibility for the current situation that we find ourselves in that the 2013 final is being played in 2014. This year's Fixtures Programme reflects the lessons learned from 2013."

McAviney also enthused about the redevelopment of Casement Park.

"Outside of Croke Park this is the largest capital project ever undertaken by the GAA," he said.

"It will give Ulster a fit for purpose GAA stadium that will be not only a statement of intent but the embodiment of the vision that we have for the future of the GAA in Ulster.

"This project will create much needed local employment and it will be a significant economic and social driver for the entire Province."

He then extended some goodwill towards local resident groups who are currently bitterly opposed to the project.

"I want to send a message to them today – Ulster GAA wants to work with you and we want your input into this development process. We have acted with the highest level of transparency at all times and our door is always open to meet anyone who wishes to raise an issue of concern."

Elsewhere, McAviney revealed that the coffers of Ulster GAA are in rude health.

"Our attendances, sponsorship and commercial income have all increased, as has government investment. "

e SATURDAY night's postponed Power NI Dr McKenna Cup final between Tyrone and Cavan – called off due to a waterlogged pitch at Brewster Park – is expected to find a new slot in the calendar sometime in mid-February.

Ulster Council Public Relations Officer John Connolly commented: "After a number of pitch inspections throughout the day, local referee Martin Higgins decided on behalf of the Ulster Council it would be a danger to put players out onto a waterlogged field."

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