GAA Football

Off The Fence: Punters and players shocked by decision to park Ulster SHC

IF the correspondence received by Off The Fence is anything to go by, Antrim’s Neil McManus was not the only one surprised by the Ulster Council’s decision to discontinue the Ulster Senior Hurling Championship for three years.

At a press call last week, McManus said he had been informed of the Ulster SHC’s demise in the aftermath of last month’s Conor McGurk Cup final.

The Ulster Council has since revealed that the decision was taken in November 2017, stating that the onus was on county delegates to communicate the news back to their county boards, team managers and players.

However the message was supposed to be communicated, it does not seem to have had the desired effect as many players and fans were left in the dark.

‘BENNY Ward’ feels it is a short-sighted call by the provincial body, and predicted that we have seen the last of the Ulster SHC.

''Shocking decision by the Ulster Council,” he said.

''The Ulster Senior Hurling Championship will never return after this. Very poor decision. In straight knock-out format the championship could be run fairly hassle free.''

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‘BLASTED’ concurred, saying: ''I agree with the Neil McManus article.

''I personally think the Ulster Championship should be played and encouraged.

''It would improve the likes of Donegal, Cavan, etc. They would up their game.

''But maybe Antrim moving to Leinster was the final nail in the coffin for the Ulster Hurling Championship.''

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‘MARK Richards’ believes that, rather than doing away with the competition, more work needs to be done to breathe life back into the small ball game.

''Surely Ulster GAA should be doing all in their power to make sure the senior hurling championship stays in place and to keep pushing and promoting it rather than casting it aside?''

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“THERE are so many good people keeping the game alive,” added ‘Fergal Doyle’.

''The club game is strong but there is a lack of interest in the county game in Ulster.''

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‘CIARAN McCarron’ echoed those sentiments.

''The hurling club scene is getting stronger. We just need to find ways to broaden the base.

''There is great work being done but sometimes by too few to make the progression immediately noticeable.''

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NOT everybody was getting so misty-eyed though for a competition that has clearly fallen further and further down the pecking order in recent years.

''IT was inevitable that it would happen,” said ‘Paul McClean’.

''The competition holds no value any more. 'The large crowds who went to Casement Park back in the 1990s for the tussles with Down will not be seen again.

''Sad to see.''

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AND 'Gerard McNally' queried whether, gulp, it time to raise the issue of a possible Team Ulster again.

''The Ulster Senior Championship is gone due to the Christy Ring Cup etc.

''But the U21 was still competitive and this is what breeds senior players. 'What is Ulster replacing this with is more the question?

''One option that now has to be given serious thought is a Team Ulster for the hurling championship.''

Considering Antrim just gave reigning All-Ireland champions Galway the fright of their lives, it is unlikely they would agree with the need for a Team Ulster.

As for the Ulster Senior Hurling Championship, whether discontinuing it is the right thing to do or not, how it was brought to the attention of the public wasn’t ideal.

Why not send out a press release detailing why the decision had been made, and how it had been arrived at? That way everything is out in the open.

Worse still, the fact that some players have claimed they weren’t made aware until two months after the decision was taken at an Ulster Council meeting is very unfortunate.

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ARMAGH’S Cahal Carvill and Tyrone’s Damian Casey will have their say in tomorrow’s Irish News, but Neil McManus’s fellow Saffrons Arron Graffin and Paul Shiels both expressed their disappointment at the decision.

''IT will be very hard to resurrect the Ulster Hurling Championship now that it has been taken out of GAA fixture list,” said Cushendall’s Graffin, “but from a player's point of view, for the last few years the competition has just been about fulfilling a fixture.

''Players from all counties are more motivated to compete in and try to win their respective championships eg Nicky Rackard, Christy Ring etc.

''If the Ulster Championship comes back then it needs to be correctly positioned in the GAA calendar. For example, after the League but prior to the championship competitions beginning.''

SHIELS may have walked away from the inter-county scene last year, but the Dunloy ace still feels strongly about this latest development – and believes the Ulster SHC should be reincorporated into the All-Ireland structure.

''I think it's really disappointing to shelve the competition,” he said

''It sounds like no effort has been put in to try and revive it. With the loss of the Interpros, it’s another competition done away with.

''I feel the best way to revive it would be to incorporate it back into the main All-Ireland structure where the winners take their place in the Liam McCarthy Cup.

''The beaten Ulster finalists would enter the Christy Ring tournament and the beaten semi-finalists would go to the Nicky Rackard.

''It cannot be said that there's a lack of interest when you look at the Ulster Club Hurling Championship; record attendances in the last few years and a really tough competition to win.

''The interest is there, it's just not being channelled properly into the county scene.''

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MOVING on, but staying with hurling, ‘Deise Dun Phadraig’ couldn’t believe there were no highlights of Antrim’s gutsy showing against the Liam MacCarthy-winning Tribesmen on RTE’s League Sunday programme.

“I was absolutely gobsmacked, and I can only conclude that there’s a bi-partisan attitude towards the north by RTE,” said ‘Deise Dun Phadraig’.

“How can we promote hurling in Ulster if a game of such magnitude, such profile is not even given airtime? I was highly disappointed, but disappointment doesn’t get you action.”

I must admit I was shocked myself when I pitched up in front of the TV on Sunday night. However, presuming producers had a decision to make beforehand, it may have been assumed that Clare v Tipp and Wexford v Waterford would be more competitive games.

Not too many would have predicted such a huge performance from the Saffrons.

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