SOME heavy-hitters have rushed to the defence of the inter-provincial championship amid fears that Saturday's Central Council meeting may recommend its permanent removal from the GAA calendar.
Joe Kernan, a former Armagh and Ulster player and manager, warned that if the competition -- previously known as the Railway Cup -- was abolished, the GAA would be doing a huge disservice to players.
"Have the players been consulted? They want the competitions to continue and their opinion should count. This is all about the players -- not about anybody or anything else," said Kernan.
John O'Mahony, the former Mayo, Galway, Leitrim and Connacht manager, took time out from canvassing in Ballyhaunis yesterday to urge the GAA to retain the competitions.
"We've heard over many years that the Railway Cups should be killed or cured. My view has always been that they should -- and could -- be cured," he said.
"They shouldn't be judged on the number of people who attend, but even then, I have no doubt the crowds could be attracted back with proper marketing and better timing.
"I remember managing Connacht against Leinster some years ago and there was a crowd of five or six thousand in Parnell Park. Players like playing for their provinces and should be accommodated."
It's not exactly an election issue, as O'Mahony bids to retain his Fine Gael seat in Mayo, but he remains passionately in favour of the inter-pros, as does Kernan, who is annoyed by the negativity emanating from some quarters.
"We have always supported them in Ulster and will continue to do so if given the chance," Kernan added.
"What happens if the International Rules series don't work out over the years? Players will have no chance to represent anything beyond their own county. I know from experience as a player and manager that players like to get together with lads from different counties in a common cause.
"We were told two years ago that if the players wanted the competition to continue, it would, so what has happened since then?"
Clare's Noel Walsh, a long-time advocate of the inter-pros, said it would be reprehensible to abolish the competition against the wishes of the players. "Maybe some of the provincial councils want to end it, but it shouldn't be their call," Walsh said. "If we can get rid of inter-provincial competitions, maybe we can get rid of the provincial councils themselves.
"We need to promote the competition in a proper way; be positive rather than negative about it. Not playing it last year was a bad mistake."
With the inter-pros back on the Central Council agenda, there are fears that a proposal could emerge at Saturday's meeting for the abolition of a competition which was introduced in 1927.
However, Kernan insisted that can't be done without consulting the players, stressing: "Their views simply cannot be ignored if the GAA has any respect for them."