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Team Ulster — is it a runner?

Shane Stapleton and Michael Verney debate the merits of a Team Ulster, and whether the counties and players would buy into it

Shane Stapleton and Michael Verney debate the merits of a Team Ulster, and whether the counties and players would buy into it.

An Ulster team has only once ever competed in an All-Ireland senior hurling final.

That was Antrim in 1989, when they were beaten well by a Nicky English-inspired Tipperary side.

As Terence McNaughton explained in this discussion on OurGame, that was during a period when they were also competitive with many of the traditional hurling counties in the league.

The Cushendall man has spoken before of why coaching is the best way to grow the code in the northern province, insisting that Belfast is an area that need particular focus.

When the hurling leagues for 2020 were halted due to the pandemic, Antrim were sitting top of Division 2A — just one win from promotion to the top tier.

Derry and Down operate in 2B, while Armagh, Tyrone and Monaghan are spread out among the runners in 3A.

Meanwhile Cavan and Fermanagh sit at the lower end of the bottom tier: Division 3B.

The Saffron County’s star player of recent years, Neil McManus, would be happy to look at plans for a Team Ulster, but doesn’t see it as a runner.

Ulster hurling development manager Jimmy Darragh said on The 42 in 2017: “The reality is that there is too much pride in the hurling communities of Down, Derry, Antrim and so on for them to come together as a collective.

“That’s my own personal view from working at the coalface of Ulster hurling. I think if you asked all the counties there would be a definite ‘no’ to any proposed move.

“Geographically, it could not happen anyway – the logistics of players from one end of Ulster driving to another for training would make any cohesion impossible.

“A central location would be hard to find, there would massive cost implications attached and it just wouldn’t work.”

Click play on the video above to watch our discussion.

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