Former Interprovincials sponsor Martin Donnelly says the GAA’s support for the competition is “disingenuous” and has called on them to make or break the series, writes John Fogarty.
Clare native Donnelly withdrew his backing of the Railway Cup after 2014 when he realised that there was little point in continuing when the same endorsement wasn’t forthcoming from GAA authorities.
In April, Connacht voted to withdraw from next month’s event, which had been scheduled for the weekend of December 9 and 10. Speaking this week, former Ulster football manager Pete McGrath said he had received no notice about this year’s competition while it also clashes with the 2016 and ’17 All-Stars hurling trip to Singapore.
“The GAA’s support for it is disingenuous because it’s being fixed for a time of year which the GAA say is when inter-county players need down-time,” said Donnelly.
“All they were doing was putting it on the fixtures calendar. When it’s been fixed for December it has been off more often than it’s been on because of the weather. Last year it was cancelled because of the weather.
“If there was a future for it, December wasn’t going to be the month for it. It was pointless continuing to sponsor it because you didn’t know if it was going to be played or not. There has been no great will to revive it and the GAA weren’t pushing me to sponsor it.
“For me, it’s very hard to fathom the idea of ending it because realistically provincial sport in Ireland has been totally dominated by rugby.”
Connacht had been scheduled to face Munster in both football and hurling semi-finals. On the matter of them pulling out, Donnelly flippantly remarked that the province “might have found it hard to compete” in the hurling competition now that Galway’s position in Leinster has strengthened.
But on a more serious note he is saddened to see the GAA commit more to the Super 11s and International Rules.
“In 2005, we brought the interprovincials to Canton in Boston and we would have had close to 15,000 people there. At the moment, there’s a lot of talk about exposure for hurling but that game in Fenway (Park) – whatever it is – you couldn’t really call it hurling.
“I’ve always felt the interprovincials were a way of promoting our games. You don’t need to do much with hurling to make it a better game because it’s the best game there is. You shouldn’t need to take away the skills of hurling to make people understand it. I don’t think it’s (Super 11s) is the way forward.”
His thoughts are similar about the International Rules, which also took place last weekend in Perth. “That’s become pretty sanitised. It’s not all that physical. All we’ve gained from it is the mark. We haven’t introduced the tackling and rightly so because as far as I could see it was down to the interpretation of the referees and they were deciding in favour of their own man. Players released the ball when they were tackled and still there was a free given against them. I’m all in favour of players getting their trips and playing for their country but is it our game? Neither that or what took place if Fenway is ours or close to it.”
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.