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Ulster series would be devalued if it is detached from All Ireland Championship, says Brian McAvoy

Provincial chief warns prestige may be lost if Task Force proposal passes

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Ulster champions: Cavan celebrate their provincial success that teed up a semi-final against Dublin

Ulster champions: Cavan celebrate their provincial success that teed up a semi-final against Dublin

�INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Ulster champions: Cavan celebrate their provincial success that teed up a semi-final against Dublin

Ulster Council secretary Brian McAvoy will surely be forgiven if he detects more than a mild helping of irony in a Fixtures Task Force suggestion in relation to a potential restructured Championship season.

It is purely coincidental, but the fact that the fixtures body envisages the provincial football Championships becoming detached from the All-Ireland series comes in the immediate aftermath of one of the most memorable Ulster campaigns for decades - this despite the considerable Covid-19 threat.

Cavan's first title triumph in 23 years, achieved via stunning wins over Monaghan, Antrim, Down and Donegal, not only thundered out a defiant message on behalf of the GAA as a whole but underlined the ongoing intrinsic appeal of what is still regarded as the most competitive of all four provincial competitions.

It's no wonder then that McAvoy lost no time in making his feelings known - feelings that he articulated forcibly to the Belfast Telegraph, as well as in his annual report.

"I believe that the provincial Championships are an integral part of the All-Ireland Championship and should remain that way," insisted McAvoy.

"I think we run the grave risk of the overall provincial series becoming much less meaningful if they were to be detached from the All-Ireland Championship.

"People saw the levels of excitement, drama and surprise that were generated in the Ulster Championship which was run over the course of four weekends in November, despite the huge threat of Covid-19.

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Brian McAvoy

Brian McAvoy

�INPHO/Presseye/Lorcan Doherty

Brian McAvoy

"The feel-good factor created proved a real tonic, and it certainly reaffirmed the reputation of our Championship."

The Task Force's suggestion that a separate All-Ireland Championship could take place after the provincial Championships could be seen to detract from the season as we know it. Indeed, it is one of several proposals from the Task Force that will be up for debate.

McAvoy pointed to the demise of the Ulster Senior Hurling Championship as a case in point in relation to dangers that tampering with high-profile competitions can deliver.

"You don't have to look any further than our now-defunct provincial Senior Hurling Championship. There is no doubt that during the 1990s and 2000s it was a highly competitive series, with Antrim, Down and Derry all enjoying their share of success," said McAvoy.

"However, when it became decoupled from the Liam McCarthy Cup series, it effectively lost its prestige and was no longer treated with the same relevance by players and supporters alike.

"I fear the same would happen to the Ulster Senior Football Championship if this proposal was to be adopted."

Elsewhere, the Sigerson Cup and Fitzgibbon Cup competitions will not be staged this season because of the heightened Covid-19 restrictions. It had initially been hoped to stage the competitions prior to the start of inter-county action, the date for which could yet be put back.

Meanwhile, Dublin footballer Con O'Callaghan and Limerick hurler Gearoid Hegarty are the PwC GAA/GPA Players of the Month for December following their outstanding displays in their respective All-Ireland finals.

O'Callaghan was in superb form for the Dubs in their sixth successive All-Ireland title triumph, embellishing his five-star show with a well-taken goal. His creative play led to several scores in a memorable individual performance.

Hegarty was equally effective for Limerick in their win over Waterford. His scoring artistry and ability to convert half-chances in particular made him his team's stand-out player in what was their second All-Ireland triumph in three years.

There is now a growing belief that Limerick could remain a potent force at All-Ireland level because of their fitness, physicality and scoring power.

Belfast Telegraph


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