Leinster chairman welcomes Antrim's Walsh Cup return

Leinster GAA chairman Martin Skelly has welcomed the return of Antrim to the Walsh Cup and also the inclusion of more Ulster hurling teams in the Kehoe Cup competition.

A total of five Ulster sides will enter the Leinster GAA Series next year, including Queen's University and Derry who are newcomers to the Kehoe Cup.

"Antrim opted out last year, but it's certainly great to see them back," Skelly said at yesterday's launch at Croke Park.

"We had the Walsh Cup final a few years ago in Casement Park and it was a wonderful, wonderful occasion. If we can do anything in Leinster to help the spread of hurling we will do it.

"If we can do anything to help promote it in Ulster or Connacht we most certainly will do so."

Skelly understands Antrim's reasons for having pulled out of the 2012 Walsh Cup, and says consideration must be given to finishing the All-Ireland Club Championships prior to the start of the Allianz Leagues.

"The biggest problem they have is the success of their club teams in the All-Ireland Club Championship. This is another of my concerns, that maybe it is time to look at concluding our club competitions before January," he said.

"If they are involved in the latter stages of the All-Ireland Club Championships they are lost, and counties like Antrim are without those players.

"That may be fine in some of the stronger counties, but in smaller counties it is of great difficulty.

"When involved in the Club Championship it means that the whole National League competition is basically wiped out for those players.

"If they are good enough to be playing at that level on All-Ireland Club final day they are close enough to be of county standard and they are a loss to their counties, particularly those who have a limited panel to pick from."

Antrim begin their Walsh Cup campaign on January 20 away to Carlow.

In the Kehoe Cup, Armagh are away to St. Pat's Drumcondra, Down face Wicklow in Arklow, Trinity host Derry while Queen's are away to Louth.

Skelly says the inclusion of the Ulster teams and GMIT and Roscommon from Connacht is Leinster's way of aiding hurling development.

"Leinster have always been open to other teams coming in and playing in their competitions," he explained.

"Two of our competitions this year went out for 'export' with Cavan winning the Leinster Junior football title and Galway winning the Senior Hurling Championship - both historic firsts.

"The bottom line is that in Leinster we embrace those who want to come in and play our competitions.

"Obviously there has to be a line drawn somewhere, but ultimately they help make Leinster stronger."

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