A leading Ulster Council official confirms that it is "all systems go" for the McKenna Cup despite earlier hints that at least one university team might withdraw from the competition if it is denied the use of its county players. Provincial PRO John Connolly insists that the competition could prove one of the best of recent years because of the interest already created by the draw, the fact that Tyrone will be going for their fourth successive triumph and the boost provided by a new sponsor.
In common with the rest of the Ulster Council, Connolly is fully aware of the hint given by St Mary's University College coach Paddy Tally that his team might step aside from the competition if they are not given access to their county players.
"The fact of the matter is that the university sides are an integral part of the competition and as far as we are aware they will have their county players. It is all systems go for the competition which begins on the first week-end of January," adds Connolly.
But he acknowledges that county team bosses, too, are keen to have as much talent available to them as possible.
"Obviously with the Allianz League commencing on January 31, this means that there is an earlier commencement than usual so there is a little bit more pressure on county bosses," points out Connolly.
"I don't see why university players should not re-join their county teams immediately after their involvement in the McKenna Cup ends. Obviously the university teams have their sights set on the Sigerson Cup and you can understand their desire to plan ahead.
"We would hope that the McKenna will benefit both county and university managers although maybe in different ways. The important thing is that we will have competitive matches that will provide an insight to the season ahead."