Inter-pros deserve a fair go -- O'Sullivan
Munster 1-16 Leinster 1-13 Inter-Pro football semi-final
THE sick patient of Gaelic games won't have drawn much oxygen from Parnell Park in Dublin yesterday as Munster steered a neat course into the M Donnelly inter-provincial football final at Leinster's expense.
With six of Dublin's All-Ireland-winning team, Alan Brogan as captain and the province's most celebrated manager of the last three decades in charge, it looked like a sufficient cocktail to at least get the patient sitting up in the bed again from Leinster's point of view.
But there were no more than 700 spectators scattered around the ground for a Sunday afternoon fixture that just didn't spark into life.
It was a nice game of football surely -- Sean Boylan recounted afterwards that the medical staff weren't required once -- and a perfect environment for players from the less successful counties to showcase their talents.
A Clare, Waterford and Limerick full-forward line -- David Tubridy, Gary Hurney and Ian Ryan -- supplied 1-10 of Munster's 1-16, while a Louth midfielder, Paddy Keenan, fired over five points for the home side.
But, unfortunately for the inter-pros, footfall on the terraces and in the stands is the relevant detail, and again the crowds just didn't turn out.
Inevitably, those closest to the action raise questions about the marketing strategy deployed and muse about the best time of the year to play it.
Munster manager Ger O'Sullivan, a devotee of the competition who was left without Tipperary players and several Kerry players for the fixture, says the competition must be given time.
"In any business -- and the GAA is a business -- you must market. I saw the amount of marketing that went into the International Rules a few years ago, and it brought huge crowds out," he said.
"I said it before, you must get the like-minded people, people who are interested in this competition, and sit down.
"We have to give it three years, give it marketing and pick the right time of the year for it. Give it a fair go rather than just signing a death warrant," added O'Sullivan, who expects to have more Kerry players back for next weekend's final against Ulster.
O'Sullivan admits he is not a fan of the pre-season provincial competitions and sees a slot for the inter-pros there.
Alternatively, the finals, he argues, could be played before the club finals on St Patrick's Day.
"Give the first round of the inter-provincials a weekend towards the end of January and try to get a date around St Patrick's Day for the final, when you have the excitement of the All-Ireland club finals.
"I'd love to think that you could play the football as a curtain-raiser for the football (club final) and the same with the hurling. I know you can't play them both on St Patrick's Day, but maybe you could switch one to the Sunday before or the Sunday after every second year."
Boylan longed for the opportunity to be able to interchange players so as not to leave them on the bench, and perhaps the competition should be the experimental vehicle for the games in the future.
Could interchange not be tried here? Or the 'tap and go' free? What about 13-a-side with interchange for some novelty to stir the imagination?
Quite likely, the fixture would have drawn a bigger crowd on a Saturday evening, but apparently Munster weren't aware of Leinster's desire to do so.
Boylan is adamant the show must go on because the players want it.
"Has there been a lot of negative talk about it? Yes there has, from people within our association. People who would have had a lot of prominence in the association over the years," he said.
"I think sometimes when you get into certain positions, you forget about the lads who play the game.
I know we asked 25 lads. Every single one of those wanted to play for Leinster. "Not one said they didn't want it. They were all up for it."
Boylan was full of praise for the performance of Clare midfielder Gary Brennan, who really caught the eye, while that full-forward line were instrumental as Munster built an early 1-8 to 1-2 lead with Hurney getting the goal.
Laois' Cahir Healy got forward to respond for Leinster on 26 minutes and Munster led by 1-10 to 1-4 at the break.
But four unanswered points -- two each from Bernard Brogan (one free) and Keenan -- took Leinster to within two points.
But Munster were better prepared and responded to lead by seven again at one stage, with Boylan accepting afterwards that the decision not to call his players together for a training session may have given the visitors a slight advantage on the day.
SCORERS -- Munster: D Tubridy 0-6 (3f), G Hurney 1-2 (1f), I Ryan 0-2, J Cooke, P Kelly, T O Se, P Kissane, M Collins, S Lavin 0-1 each. Leinster: B Brogan 0-6 (5f), P Keenan 0-5, C Healy 1-0, S Cluxton (1f), D Connolly 0-1 each.
MUNSTER -- A Quirke (Cork); A O'Mahony (Kerry), J McCarthy (Limerick), S Lavin (Limerick); T O Se (Kerry), G Canty (Cork), P Kissane (Cork); G Brennan (Clare), S Scanlon (Kerry); P Kelly (Cork), P Kerrigan (Cork), J Cooke (Limerick); D Tubridy (Clare), G Hurney (Waterford), I Ryan (Limerick). Subs: M Collins (Cork) for Kerrigan (45), S Briggs for Cooke (57).
LEINSTER -- S Cluxton (Dublin); G Molloy (Wexford), K Reilly (Meath), C Healy (Laois); E Bolton (Kildare), S McAnarney (Meath), L Glynn (Wicklow); P Keenan (Louth), MD MacAuley; M Conway (Kildare), A Brogan (Dublin), B Quigley (Laois); B Brogan, D Connolly, K McManamon (all Dublin). Subs: K Nolan (Dublin) for Bolton (12), K Lillis (Laois) for Conway (ht), B Murphy (Carlow) for MacAuley (49), J Doyle (Kildare) for McManamon (52), S McCormack (Longford) for Glynn (54).
REF -- M Higgins (Fermanagh).