Ulster and recently appointed Galway football manager Joe Kernan travelled to London this week to unveil the GAA’s plans to host this year’s M Donnelly Inter-Provincial Football Final in the British capital on Sunday November 8.
The GAA has confirmed that defending champions Munster will face Connacht at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick on October 24 when new lights at that venue are used for the first time.
On the same day, Crossmaglen will host the meeting of Ulster and Leinster. The winners will proceed to a Ruislip decider two weeks later.
GAA President Christy Cooney thanked Irish Ambassador Bobby McDonagh and his wife Mary for hosting this week’s launch event and expressed hope that the Ruislip final will provide a fitting acknowledgement of Britain and London’s role in the GAA over such a prolonged period.
He said: "We had a wonderful launch in the Irish Embassy in London and for that we thank the Irish Ambassador Bobby McDonagh. It was an event that exemplified everything that is good about the GAA in Britain and underlined the terrific work that is ongoing not only in London but all over the country.
“I look forward to a wonderful weekend that will showcase the best of Gaelic football and if our launch event is anything to go by it should be an event to remember.”
The GAA President was joined by Kernan and Munster football manager Ger O’Sullivan who will both hope to be involved in the final next month.
Kernan will oversee the Ulster challenge for the second consecutive season and the 2002 All-Ireland winning manager stresses that he derives as much satisfaction from managing his provincial team as he did playing for it during the 1970s and '80s.
“There are three what were then Railway Cup medals in my house and I am proud to be able to say that I represented Ulster for nine years under the guidance of Sen O’Neill and Brian McEniff,” said Kernan.
"Sen was a superb player and he brought great drive to the set up and we all know Brian’s commitment to the competition so when I got the call from Tom Daly asking me would I be interested I was thrilled.
“Even when I took on the Galway job I outlined my intention to see this through and given the fact that we are tied with Leinster on 19 wins this is a big year for Ulster in this competition.”
Kernan revealed that work had already started in South Armagh in an effort to raise interest in their semi-final clash with Leinster.
Although injury will deny the former All-Star the services of Sen Cavanagh and Marty McGrath, he is not surprised by the interest levels of those he has contacted to date.
"There is no International Rules Series this year meaning that this is the only forum for people to see inter-county players in a representative setting for the remainder of 2009.
"I remember speaking to the Ulster players last year at the Carrickdale Hotel after we had lost to Munster on a wet day in Cork and the one thing that struck a chord with me was Davy Harte’s determination to try and win a medal in this competition as it’s one he doesn’t have.
“The decision of the GAA to bring it to London with Martin Donnelly’s support will come as a boost to the huge amount of Irish people in England and adds to the competition but for the time being our only focus is on the semi-final and trying to book a final date.”
For Munster manager O’Sullivan targeting back to back titles with a line up that includes a spread of players from across the province is the priority.
“As a province Munster have only won this competition three times since 1982 and we have not retained it over that period so you could hardly call us kingpins,” explained O’Sullivan.
“Last year we had a great spread of players on the winning team and that was a real source of satisfaction and I have got a great response from players who were approached this year and it’s obvious to me that they value their involvement in this competition greatly.”
O’Sullivan, a selector with Conor Counihan points to Toms S’s role in the 2008 success at a time when his partner was expecting a child as further evidence of the special place the medal holds in players’ collections.
He added: "Everyone who has been approached from the 2008 panel has been delighted to be asked and the fact that the final will take place in London adds further to the attraction.
“It will be a chance for the Cork lads on the team to get their heads down and concentrate on football at this level again and I’m personally honoured that Conor gave me the chance to fill this role last year when the province came calling.”
M Donnelly Inter-Provincial Football Championship 2009 Fixtures
Saturday October 24
Ulster v Leinster, Crossmaglen 2.30
Munster v Connacht, 7.30.
Sunday November 8