By Michael McMullan
A BIG regret Sleacht Néill will have after their latest All-Ireland challenge is how they are now back at square one in more ways than one in their All-Ireland hurling title quest.
It comes back to the sheer geography of hurling. Ballygunner can rock up and play any team for the neighbouring counties in a challenge game should they need to. For the Ulster teams, it’s a case of a bus journey, a hotel and giving up a full weekend.
Maybe a fully supported Ulster league would be a start to raise the level of club hurling. Imagine a weekend of Loughgiel v Middletown, Lisbellaw v Lavey, Sleacht Néill v Cushendall and Ballycran v Dunloy.
In time, it has to help. Offer the carrot of a weekend in Galway – taking in two challenge games – for the winners of the senior and intermediate grades, with the Ulster Council paying any bus and accommodation costs