New York were unable to fulfill the original June date at Antrim’s Casement Park due to visa problems for many of the Exiles’ players, and when Antrim refused New York’s offer to play at Gaelic Park in August it looked as though the 2006 Ulster Hurling Final would go unplayed.
Antrim County Board Chairman Dr. John McSparran was at the center of the controversy two months ago and he took the opportunity to clarify his position when he spoke to the Irish Echo by phone last Friday evening.
“We are willing to look at October ,depending on the Christy Ring Cup,”
McSparran said before the Glensmen disposed of Carlow 5-13 to 1-7 to claim the Christy Ring title.
“The option is still there” the Chairman maintained,but he took issue with the notion that Antrim’s position had “softened”.
“We were portayed as the bad boys, but we never said we wouldn’t play.” McSparran points out that it was New York who refused to meet the original fixture and maintains that ” August was never a possibility,” for Antrim.
The Chairman concedes that the possibility of a New York victory was “given no serious consideration” although he concedes that”alarm bells should have been ringing” after New York’s near miss versus Antrim in 2005.
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In the immediate aftermath of New York’s defeat of Derry to qualify for the Ulster Final, McSparran was widely qouted as calling for New York’s removal from the Ulster Championship. That quote ignited a war of words that reached its zenith when New York manager Monty Moloney called Antrim “cowards” for refusing to travel.
Now Dr. McSparran says ” I want to make it clear that I have not called for New York to be thrown out of the Ulster Championship,and I want to take this chance to refute that.”
With the Christy Ring Cup now secured Antrim will be travelling to Boston in October. Discussions have been entered into involving Antrim, New York and Ulster representatives and it is expected that an agreement can be reached to play the Ulster Hurling Final at that time.
New York manager Monty Moloney would like to see the match take place at Gaelic Park in the Bronx.
“The players would play it anywhere” Moloney says ,adding “We have no problem playing in Boston.” Still Moloney emphasiizes that “Boston is not in the Ulster Championship, New York is, and the Ulster Final should be played in a Ulster Championship county.”
New York GAA Chairman Seamus Dooley told the Echo that he ” is delighted that the match will be played,” and not suprisingly also hopes to see the match played in Gaelic Park.
“The decision will be made by the Ulster Council, but we have let them know that we would like the match to be played here.”
While much speculation has centered on Boston McSparran told the Echo that “we won’t dictate where it’s played.”
Whatever the venue Moloney sees no problem in getting his team ready for the challenge. “The players are not as fit as they were when we played Derry” Moloney concedes, “and I would say we’d need six weeks to get back to that level.”
With a late October date Moloney and his managment team have the time and the Ulster Final should provide plenty of motivation. “They(the NY players) know it’s a big match, that it is something worth winning ” the manager states.
“New York in the Ulster Final”, Maloney mused savoring the thought. “It’s historic” he concluded “It has never happened before and it may never happen again.”