Cooney gives stark warning about interpros' future
GAA president Christy Cooney yesterday warned that the enthusiasm of players for the ailing interprovincial football and hurling championships might not be enough to save them.
The GAA's Management Committee is to debate the future of the series, and Central Council will make a final decision at its March meeting.
But Cooney made it clear that the championships must tick a number of key boxes to assure their future.
"Whatever counties want, we'll support. If we do go ahead with the interprovincials, it has to be right. We have to find a proper date in the calendar for it, and inter-county players have to make themselves available for it.
"Some players are on provincial panels who haven't even played for their counties and that's not the logic behind it.
"The other thing is, if we do run it, are we going to play it at home and are we going to get the crowds to turn up?
"When we took them abroad it worked reasonably well. A lot of things have to be thrown into the pot before we can make a final decision," he said.
Asked about his personal opinion of the championships, Cooney replied: "I have said already that if the players wanted it, I would support it -- that's if all the inter-county players give their commitment, and we don't end up with a situation where we have players who aren't available.
"It is a good competition, but we need all the best players playing in it and we need people watching it.
"There's no point in playing the interprovincials in front of a few hundred people at significant cost to the provinces and the Association."
It's a huge contrast to the era when the interprovincials were a popular event under the Railway Cup banner in the '50s and '60s.
Those were the good days when the four provinces picked the cream of the crop and the superstars of the day such as Christy Ring and Mick O'Connell performed alongside players from other often lesser counties.
That, too, was part of its allure for players who would not otherwise play alongside the finest exponents of football and hurling.
GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell confirmed that his Association's feedback was that the present generation of players were keen to see the interpros survive -- but he feels that increased TV coverage of matches has blunted the appetite of the public for the championship.
"Ultimately, it's representative honours and it's nice to say that you played for your province. I think that's part of the motivation for the players, but I can't see it getting back to having 40,000 at these games.
"The inter-county game has gone to a new level with the advent of TV and all that goes with that. That's where it's at now for the spectator and the supporter.
"Previously, with the Railway Cup or the Interpros when TV wasn't widespread, the only chance you had to see players from outside your own county, or some of the greats, was to actually go to the venues and see them in action.
"Now every second game is televised," Farrell continued. "You're into a situation where you have to calculate the balance and the trade-off of promoting it and the costs of it.
"While we'd all like to keep it because it's part of tradition, we all have to make difficult decisions sometimes."