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Ulster's league success points to hot summer

By John Campbell

Ulster Council chairman Martin McAviney views Sunday's Allianz League football finals at Croke Park as the perfect aperitif for the forthcoming provincial championship.

"For Ulster to have three teams out of the four that will be contesting the league final proper and the Division Two decider is an achievement in itself," states McAviney.

"It represents the general well-being of football in this part of the world and if we could capture both titles it would be another wonderful pre-championship boost."

The flagship Ulster competition swings into action on May 18 when Tyrone host Down in the preliminary round and, with the winners due to meet reigning champions Monaghan in the quarter-finals, it's certain that representatives from the Red Hands and the Mourne County will be running the rule over Malachy O'Rourke's charges when they confront Donegal in the Division Two showdown.

"This match between Monaghan and Donegal is of course a repeat of last year's Ulster final and the game, along with the Dublin versus Derry match, will really whet appetites for the Ulster Championship," insists McAviney.

"Ulster has a proud tradition in the league and you can be sure that the fans of all three counties involved in Sunday's action will be travelling to Croke Park with considerable optimism."

Donegal beat Monaghan earlier in the league while Derry also got the better of Dublin but these two results are not seen as providing any indicator as to just how Sunday's contests will turn out.

"We have had an excellent league campaign to date with some outstanding games, terrific team displays and many phenomenal individual performances so the indications are that the curtain is going to come down in style," adds McAviney.

"Ulster will be very much in the shop window on Sunday but recent results will not mean a lot.

"We could not ask for a better marketing tool for our championship. There is already considerable interest because of the intriguing draw that ensued and I think the fervour will be brought to a new level after Sunday."

The Ulster Council's decision to adhere to their policy of staging minor championship games in tandem with senior contests has been given added weight following several lop-sided stand-alone midweek matches in Leinster.

"I think young players deserve the chance to play in front of big crowds in a colourful, passionate atmosphere," stresses McAviney.

"We have the minor league final this weekend and after that the whole focus will switch to the Ulster (Minor) Championship."

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