Saturday 25 November 2017

Ailing inter-pros under the spotlight

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

THE GAA will decide today whether or not to switch off the life support machine on its ailing 83-year-old inter-provincial championships.

Counties were asked in recent weeks to consider their position on the competitions so that delegates at today's Central Council meeting will be properly mandated if it comes to a vote.

"Strong viewpoints about the competitions have been expressed over recent years in particular so I felt the right thing to do was ask counties to decide where they stood," said GAA president Christy Cooney.

"We'll get that feedback from Central Council and then decide how to proceed."

Despite claims from some influential quarters that the inter-provincials have outlived their usefulness, it's unlikely that Central Council will vote them into extinction.

Support for their retention has been quite solid in various counties on the basis that they have the backing of the players. The public has long since deserted them; certainly in comparison with the glory days when the finals of what were then known as the Railway Cup competitions were the glamour events in Croke Park on St Patrick's Day.

The record attendance at the finals was in 1954, when 49,023 saw Leinster complete a hurling-football double. Crowds of over 40,000 were common up to the early 1960s, but they dwindled from there on and the finals were eventually taken out of Croke Park on St Patrick's Day and replaced with the All-Ireland club finals.

Various attempts were made to revive public interest in the inter-pros but to no great avail, although there have been criticisms that the failure to give them a permanent date on the calendar, allied to a lack of promotion, added to public apathy.

Martin Donnelly has been an enthusiastic sponsor of the competition for several years but his efforts weren't always matched by other stakeholders.

Players insist that they want the competitions retained, although interest across all four provinces has been uneven, with Ulster, who have won 15 titles since 1980, generally the most interested.

Irish Independent

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