THE future participation of third level colleges in the Dr McKenna Cup is under threat after Queen's University followed through on their threat to pull out of the cup in a row over the availability of players.
Several of Queen's brightest stars have been pulled from their ranks for the competition in the new year by their respective county managers, a trend spanning back the last three years.
Traditionally - and by GAA law - third level colleges have first call on county players for the Dr McKenna Cup, just as they do for the O'Byrne Cup, FBD League and Waterford Crystal Cup.
"The club were hoping for some resolution to the ongoing issue in relation to the availability of college players to their university, but this hasn't happened," a statement from Queen's read.
"Participation at this stage would involve the loss of a significant number of first team players to counties and added to injury and exam pressures, we don't think anyone could expect a university team to play at this level without so many players.
"Furthermore, the prospect of heavy losses would do little for morale and preparation ahead of the Sigerson Cup competition. We are very disappointed that the competition regulations have not been adhered to.
"It seems clear that some counties refused to restructure their panels in line with competition regulations.
"At all times we have been open and available to talk and negotiate with the county managers. We are disappointed that this openness to discussion has not been reciprocated by particular counties.
"Like UUJ and St Mary's, we were privileged to be asked to join the McKenna Cup back in 2003."
Another of Ulster's biggest football colleges - UUJ - have committed to participation in the 2013 competition, despite the loss of eight players in similar circumstances, but they have urged the Ulster Council to back their stance and that of Queen's.
"We are disappointed that this course of action has been taken," said their Ulster Council in their own statement.
"Comhairle Uladh can confirm that there were five players named on both the Queen's University panel and a county panel, with the players being placed in an unfortunate position."