Hard to see Interprovincials surviving, admits Tobin
Connacht Interprovincial football manager John Tobin remains a fan of the Railway Cup but admits it's "hard to see" the competition surviving.
With the GAA's top brass promising a radical overhaul of fixtures aimed at creating more room in the calendar for club competitions and easing the pressures on young players, Tobin believes the much-maligned tournament could soon be a thing of the past.
"They've tried a couple of things with it," said the former Galway star. "It was in the window after the first two rounds of the National League and that didn't work because you were very much at the mercy of county managers for access to players. And that often depended on how the first two rounds of the league went for them. I thought this time of year would work well. But I've found that players are getting operations or going through rehab with various injuries they might have had.
"There's a big change coming in the way fixtures are run and if that's the case, at this time of year you'd be still playing club games. And it'd be very hard to see it surviving then."
Tobin played for Connacht in the early 1970s and admits that it's difficult to see a return to those days when the competition was held in high regard. "I suppose you have to look at it and say do you want to have it and give experience to the young players and just have it as a representation (of the province). Or do you want the best of every province against each other? Because I don't think that is realistic in terms of getting access to players."
This year's format sees the semi-finals down for decision on Saturday night with the winners advancing to a final on Sunday. Tobin's Connacht take on Ulster in the Athletic Grounds at 7.0 with Leinster facing Munster in Newry at four. And despite the arduous schedule that could see players facing two games inside 24 hours, Tobin insists players still want to play in the competition.
"It's not a hard sell at all. The players who can play really want to play. Most of the people who said no had a reason, be it they are involved with their club or have injuries.
"Cillian and Diarmuid O'Connor are clearing up little things. The two Dalys in Roscommon have picked up something too. Some of them have booked holidays. For example, there's a good contingent of Mayo lads who won't be available because they'll be in New York. But still the concept of running it off in a weekend is a good one for lots of reasons.
"I don't think players can afford to give two weekends to it with everything else that is going on."
Tobin, who steered Connacht to a first title in 45 years in 2014, has still managed to assemble a strong-looking outfit that will include the likes of Cathal Cregg, Cathal Shine (both Roscommon) Paul Conroy, Gareth Bradshaw (both Galway) Jason Doherty (Mayo) and Ross Donovan (Sligo).
Elsewhere, Leinster hurling manager Pat Critchley has included six players from Kilkenny's All-Ireland-winning side in his panel for this weekend's Interprovincial hurling championship.
Paul Murphy, Cillian Buckley, Conor Fogarty, Richie Hogan, Lester Ryan and Walter Walsh join players from nine other counties in the Leinster squad.
Defending champions Leinster take on Munster in Galway on Saturday in Salthill at 2.0 for the right to play in Sunday's final against Connacht or Ulster.
Meanwhile, Kerry veteran Aidan O'Mahony captains the Munster football side while Paudie Maher leads the province's hurlers.