BY RONAN SCOTT
Down hurler and Ulster Hurling development officer Danny Toner admits that he feels frustrated that hurlers from his county won’t get to play Mageean Cup hurling this season.
An Dun won the Ulster Schools Mageean Cup last year, the senior A hurling competition in Ulster, the first time that an amalgamated team has won the tournament.
However, this year they will not get their chance to defend their title.
Earlier this week, the Ulster Schools explained that they had not had an application from the Down county board for the An Dun team to take part in the Mageean cup.
They schools body also decided that it was not in the interest of development of hurling to have a Down amalgamation playing at that level.
Toner, who was part of the An Dun management last year, said it was a decision that did not surprise him.
“We sort of knew it was coming. After An Dun won last year we knew that other schools wouldn’t be happy about it. Two years ago we had lost to St Pat’s in the final, and last year we won. I can see that the big, traditional hurling schools wouldn’t be happy about that as the competition is traditionally for schools.
“They could argue that an Antrim amalgamation should be allowed in. I had also heard that some schools weren’t happy about the time that players were away from school.”
But Toner said that it wasn’t a case of the county board throwing in the towel and accepting the decisions.
“I know that they put up a fight. Logisitically it can be a nightmare for the county board dealing with buses and that sort of thing. But they put up a fight. The county board has been very good. I never had an issue with them. I enjoyed being involved with it.”
But now that the An Dun team has gone, he predicts that there might be negative repercussions for Down hurling.
“The An Dun team was the best thing that had happened to Down hurling in a long time. The Down people really rowed in behind it. And last year there was so much support at the final.”
Toner said that he feels frustration for those players who were hoping to play in the competition this year, but who won’t get to play at all.
“I have had lads texting me and asking me when we are getting back into it. I feel frustrated for them. I think that there should be Down representation at Mageean Cup hurling.
“Perhaps the schools don’t think they are ready to play at that level.
“But it is good for Down players to get exposure at that level.”
But he added that the matter is not straightforward.
“Look I understand that it is a competition that was traditionally for schools. And I respect that, but at the same time I am frustrated for the players who won’t get to play.”