Driving back to Belfast tonight along the M1 I saw a strong white light emanating from the direction of the Castleblayney Road near Dundalk. It was the floodlights from Pairc Grattan at Inniskeen, County Monaghan, a ground which has been developed in recent years to accommodate county team matches. Monaghan were playing neighbours Fermanagh in their third Dr McKenna Cup match in Section A. Victory by 1-12 to 0-07 meant that the home side has qualified for the knock-out stages. Their next opponents will be Down, at the Athletic Grounds Armagh at 2pm on Sunday. I passed Newry as they were seeing off the challenge from their neighbours Armagh by 2-11 to 1-10 in Section B. In other matches, a weakened Donegal side narrowly beat St Mary’s 1-14 to 2-10 and in Section C, Tyrone easily beat UUJ 1-18 to 0-09 and Derry drew 1-13 apiece with Antrim. So the other semi-final on Sunday will see Tyrone meet Fermanagh, the best runner-up.
This year there has been controversy over the decision by some county managers to include QUB students in their squads. It has led to the withdrawal of Queen’s University from the competition, as they believed they were being put at a disadvantage. The competition has a very interesting history. The cup is called after a fomer Bishop of Clogher Dr Patrick McKenna from Truagh parish in County Monaghan, who presented it to the Ulster Council of the GAA in 1925. The first competition was in 1927. Monaghan are the most successful side in the tournament with thirteen wins, the last being 2003. Maybe they can make it fourteen this year! For two years, 2001 and 2002, the competition was not held but it was resurrected in 2003. Since 2007 it has been sponsored and the latest company to do so is Power NI, formerly NI Electricity, appropriate now that (as I observed at the start) many of the matches like tonight’s are played under floodlights!