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President-elect O'Neill delighted Leinster is not split

THE next president of the GAA, Liam O'Neill of Laois, has welcomed the fact that there won't be a "Leinster showdown" at annual Congress next April after Wexford's Sheamus Howlin formally withdrew his candidacy over the weekend.

"I am grateful that Sheamus Howlin decided to stand aside and avoid a situation where Leinster would have been divided," O'Neill told the Evening Herald, citing a "huge relief" among Leinster convention delegates on Saturday and they "wouldn't have to choose" between two candidates from the province.

The former Leinster chairman will now be unopposed when he stands for president-elect at Congress, eventually taking over from Christy Cooney 12 months later, following the recent withdrawals of Con Hogan (Tipperary), Tom Daly (Donegal) and finally Howlin.

"It's a very unusual situation -- it has never happened before," O'Neill admitted. "I'm delighted to be the only name going forward, and not to have to go through the six weeks of worry and concern that is involved in an election."

NA FIANNA'S John Horan was elected Leinster Council Vice-Chairman at the weekend beating Syl Doyle (Kildare) by 67-22 after Brendan Dempsey (Meath) opted out of the election.

John was a Dublin minor football selector on two occasions in the past (1998, 2001). He recently completed three years as Chairman of the Leinster Council's Coaching and Games Committee. John will automatically become Leinster Council Chairman in three years time. Jimmy Gray was Dublin's last provincial chairman.

PAT GILROY will now welcome the Kilmacud Crokes contingent into his squad ahead of their trip to face Monaghan on March 13. Ross O'Carroll and Kevin Nolan could be available to bolster the defensive options, with Pat Burke another option for the attack.

However, the availability of Cian O'Sullivan will be shrouded in doubt after he hobbled off in the closing stages of yesterday's semi-final defeat to Crossmaglen, while Rory O'Carroll will be back in France for the latter league stages. Paul Griffin probably won't be risked either; he made his Sky Blue comeback in a challenge last Monday night but didn't see any game time against Crossmaglen.