Hurling & Camogie

Shelving Ulster Senior Hurling Championship a "sad indictment" on province: Antrim boss Terence McNaughton

Antrim co-boss Terence McNaughton believes the Ulster SHC should have been retained, even without Antrim's participation
Antrim co-boss Terence McNaughton believes the Ulster SHC should have been retained, even without Antrim's participation

TERENCE McNaughton says shelving the Ulster Senior Hurling Championship for three years is a “sad indictment” on the province.

The decision to discontinue the senior Championship between 2018 and 2020 was taken at a CCC meeting on November 13 – but the news only filtered into the public domain earlier this month.

Joint Antrim manager McNaughton said: “It’s a sad indictment of Ulster hurling – that’s the bottom line, no matter the reasons why. It’s sad that we can’t have a competition to see who’s Ulster champions and I think it reflects badly on Ulster hurling.

“You can dress it up whatever way you want... I was surprised when I heard about it, to tell you the truth. I think for the Tyrones and Armaghs of this world it’s still got meaning for them. In the real world, Antrim can live without it but I think in the overall picture it does Ulster hurling no good.”

It has been widely acknowledged the emergence of the Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard, Lory Meagher and now the Joe McDonagh Cup have relegated the importance of the Ulster SHC.

In his convention address last weekend, provincial secretary Brian McAvoy said: “The restructuring of the national competitions aims to provide a high number of games for Ulster counties at their own level while the apathy towards the Ulster Senior Hurling Championship in recent times has been obvious. Therefore, with a heavy heart, the Ulster Senior Hurling Championship has been discontinued for a threeyear period (2018 -2020).”

Speaking to The Irish News last week, Antrim hurler Neil McManus expressed his surprise when an Ulster Council official mentioned there would be no Ulster series for three seasons at the presentation ceremony of the Queen’s University-led pre-season competition, the Conor McGurk Cup, on January 13.

McManus said: “Everybody else – outside of Antrim – was beating each other in it… I think with Antrim removed the Ulster Championship could have been kept alive.

“Now that it has been removed from the GAA calendar [for three years], once something is removed it’s very hard to bring it back,”

While the Ulster Council did not make an announcement to the media after the decision was taken to drop the Ulster Championship over two months ago, they said the onus was on county delegates to communicate the news back to their county boards, team managers and players.

In a statement, the Ulster Council said: “Following a CCC meeting on October 24 2017, a communication was issued to all counties regarding the scheduling of the USHC. Counties were advised of the difficulties of scheduling an USHC and were asked to respond to the Ulster Council on future options. Only one county expressed a written desire to retain the USHC but no suitable dates for same were provided.

"The Allianz Hurling League commences in January and finishes at the end of March. April is not an option for senior inter county activity. The National tiered competitions run from mid-May to the end of June and aim to provide a number of games for Ulster counties at their own level. This is then followed by the All-Ireland U21 B Championship.”

The statement continued: “Subsequently, further discussions were held at the next meeting of the CCC on November 13, where the decision was taken that the Ulster Senior Hurling Championship would be discontinued for a three year period (2018 -2020). All nine Ulster counties are represented on the committee.”