Sunday 24 September 2017

Down boss rails against Cusack calls for combined Ulster team

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Down's Christy Ring Cup-winning manager has voiced his opposition to a suggestion from former Cork goalkeeper Donal Og Cusack for a combined Ulster team to compete in future Liam MacCarthy Cup competitions.

Cusack's suggestion as part of his analysis on 'The Sunday Game' is the basis for a motion which was passed at the Gaelic Players Association AGM last October.

He believes an all-Ulster team would enhance the MacCarthy Cup and improve standards in the province. But Down manager Ger Monan, fresh from Ring Cup success on Saturday, insists it wouldn't work.

"It would be 90pc Antrim because they are the strongest county in the province. After that, interest would wane quickly among the others," he said.

"Down are not going to win a MacCarthy Cup in my lifetime. The next best thing is a Ring Cup success for us and we enjoyed that."

Cusack has been a regular and welcome visitor to Ulster for coaching sessions in the past and has a good feel for hurling in Ulster, but Monan's views mirror those of Antrim chairman Jim Murray.

ACHIEVE

"I wouldn't see us discussing this for too long," Murray said when the GPA motion was first made public last year. "Our aim is to improve Antrim hurling and I don't see how this move could achieve this."

Combination teams are not uncommon, with an Ulster colleges team losing by just a point in the All-Ireland 'A' quarter-finals to Mercy Galway in March. Dublin Colleges have also got together to win Leinster titles in 2001 and 2008.

The exact detail of what Cusack and the GPA have proposed is not fully clear, but it seems counties would still compete in the Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cups. Antrim are currently the only Ulster team in the MacCarthy Cup.

Meanwhile, the venues for the first-round All-Ireland hurling qualifiers will be announced today.

The plum preliminary-round draw sees Offaly and Waterford pitted together after their respective provincial quarter-final defeats to Kilkenny and Clare.

The other preliminary-round games, due to take place on Saturday, June 22, pitch the losers of the Wexford/Dublin replay against Antrim, with London meeting Westmeath.

For the first round proper, Carlow have a bye and will face the winners of Wexford/Dublin/ Antrim on Saturday, June 29, with the winners of London/ Westmeath and Offaly/Waterford meeting on the same day.

Irish Independent

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