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We'll get back on the rails, says Ulster boss McGrath

By Declan Bogue

Ulster Inter-Provincial manager Pete McGrath has praised the early cancellation of the weekend's Railway Cup fixtures, due to the effects of Storm Desmond.

With Saturday's challenge match between Derry and Donegal in Letterkenny also biting the dust as early as Friday night, the Inter-Pros clash between Munster and Leinster in Newry, and Ulster and Connacht in Armagh, were called off early on Saturday.

It is expected that the football tournament will be held this coming weekend, but there may be some doubt about the hurling code, given that the hurling All-Stars trip to Texas departs in midweek.

"The decision was taken quite early at 11.00am, on Saturday," explained McGrath.

"Tony Scullion immediately began to contact the players, so at least that was avoided, people travelling and people arriving and all that sort of thing.

"I think it was a wise decision, not only due to the state of the pitch, but the winds were very strong as well and it would have been a health and safety risk with people travelling long distances as well."

With his first game in charge of his province falling foul of the conditions, it reminded McGrath of his debut as Fermanagh manager, when a Dr McKenna Cup fixture against St Mary's had to be called off due to incessant rain making Brewster Park unplayable.

The Down man said: "It would have done nothing for the game; the game would have been reduced to a lottery and it would have been very unpleasant for players and supporters and everybody else. A game being called off is always a disappointment, but I think you have to be sensible and the right decision was taken."

Ulster have already had two training sessions on consecutive Thursday nights, and the enthusiasm that McGrath has detected among his players leads him to believe that the appetite to play in the provincial series is as strong as ever.

"I have always found that players are always keen to play," he said.

"Generally, not just in the Railway Cup but if there is a match there, then they will want to row in and play.

"The players were looking forward to it, we had two good sessions over the past two Thursday nights and a lot of players travelled substantial distances to reach those sessions up in Garvaghey.

"I suppose that does indicate that the players are keen, that they want to keep it alive.

"The competition is in rude enough health as far as we are concerned anyway."

Meanwhile, Frank McGlynn carried off the top prize at the Donegal Sports Awards when he lifted the Footballer of the Year honour. The dynamic wing-back has been one of Donegal's most consistent players of late.

New boss Eamonn Burns was provided with a ration of encouragement at the Down All Stars awards banquet.

The three divisional Players of the Year award winners, along with the Spirit of Breen Morgan accolade winner as well as the All Stars Team of the Year, help to underline the depth of talent within the county but of course the challenge that former All-Ireland winner Burns faces is harnessing this into a successful combination. Division One Player of the Year Robbie White could yet earn his spurs at senior inter-coutny level while ex-Down ace Dan Gordon took the Division Two honour thus triggering speculation that he could make a return to the county colours.

Division Three Player of the Year is Connaire Harrison who showed flashes of good form when given his chance by former manager Jim McCorry and might yet become a more regular fixture in the Mourne line-up.

Darren O'Hagan, who has shown good form this year, was a worthy winner of the Spirit of Breen Morgan award at the Down prize-giving.

All-Stars Team: Steven Kane (Kilcoo); Aaron Branagan (Kilcoo), Gerard McGovern (Burren), Daryl Branagan (Kilcoo); Conor Doyle (An Ríocht), Robbie White (Ballyholland), Daniel Morgan (Castlewellan); Dan Gordon (Loughinisland), Paul Greenan (Kilcoo); Shay Millar (Glenn), Aidan Burns (Castlewellan), Ryan Johnston (Kilcoo); Rory Mason (Loughinisland), Connaire Harrison (Glasdrumman), Jerome Johnston (Kilcoo)

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