GAA Football

Tyrone seven expected to play in Ulster University Sigerson clash and miss Dr McKenna Cup final against Armagh

Tyrone star Michael McKernan is an important player for Ulster Univeristy.
Pic Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

ULSTER University expect to have all seven of their Tyrone players available for Sunday’s Sigerson Cup clash with IT Tralee meaning they will be ruled out of Saturday’s Dr McKenna Cup final against Armagh.

Defender Michael McKernan, midfield pair Ben McDonnell and Brian Kennedy, goalkeeper Benny Gallen, forwards Lee Brennan and David Mulgrew and versatile Pomeroy clubman Frank Burns are all certain starters for ‘the Poly’ and losing all, even some, of them to inter-county duty could deal a bad blow to their Sigerson Cup hopes.

On the flip side, Gallen, McKernan, McDonnell, Kennedy and Brennan all started for Tyrone in last Sunday’s McKenna Cup semi-final win over Derry. Burns came on as a substitute and although Mulgrew didn’t feature in the game, he started and scored in Tyrone’s final group match against Fermanagh.

Their absence will certainly be felt by Tyrone but Ulster University GAA President Tommy Joe Farrell insists there is no prospect of a college-versus-county tug-of-war.

“We trained last night and it – the McKenna Cup final – was never mentioned,” said the Burren native.

“We leave for Tralee on Saturday afternoon, obviously we have to go down the night before (the game throws in at 1pm) and at this stage nobody has said anything and we are assuming that we will have our full squad available bar anybody who unfortunately is injured.

“At this stage the situation regarding the McKenna Cup has not been discussed.”

Spearheaded by Kerry wonderkid David Clifford, IT Tralee include five other Kingdom senior players in Jack Savage, Conor Keane, Gavin Crowley, Greg Horan of Austin Stacks and Jack Morgan.

Clifford hit a match-winning 1-4 when the Kerry college – who hadn’t won a Sigerson Cup game in 11 years - beat Queen’s at The Dub and went on to reach the quarter-finals of the competition.

The game was originally scheduled for today (Wednesday) but the colleges agreed to postpone it until Sunday because of exams and Farrell says UU cannot win without their Red Hands contingent.

“We’d be the same as any other team: If you lost half your team, where would you be?” he asked.

“This fixture is going to cost Jordanstown a considerable amount of money between transport and hotels and meals and breakfasts and everything else.

“To spend all that money to go down there with half your team… We’re just not contemplating that at the minute.”

For Ulster’s counties the McKenna Cup is, first and foremost, preparation for the National Football League. For the three universities, UU, Queen’s and St Mary’s, it is preparation for the Sigerson Cup and, as Farrell points out, Jordanstown’s moment has arrived.

“We are not preparing for anything,” he said.

“In a few days’ time we have the Sigerson and since it was in the fixtures, which were made before Christmas it is the one we’ve been looking forward to and preparing for. It (the McKenna Cup final) hasn’t been mentioned and we haven’t mentioned it to any of the players and, with exams on this week, I don’t think we’re meeting until Saturday.

“The lads have been told that we’re travelling down from the Carrickdale on Saturday afternoon.”

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