Walsh in passionate appeal to reinstate inter-pros
As opposition grows to the cancellation of the inter-provincial championship this year, a leading supporter of the competitions has queried why counties were circulated with the costs involved over the last few years.
Former Munster Council chairman Noel Walsh, a long time advocate of retaining the inter-pros, said that issuing the costs to counties ahead of last weekend's Central Council meeting had 'loaded implications' and may have influenced the vote.
"Competitions should not be about money. Besides, the money spent on the inter-provincials was generated by the players in other games. The players want the inter-provincials to continue and those of us who feel strongly about it will fight tooth and nail to make sure they are not abandoned altogether," he said.
Figures seen by the Irish Independent show that the interprovincials cost the four provincial councils a total of just under €500,000 in the last four years. Leinster spent a total of €433,700 in the last six years, during which some of the finals were played in Boston, Rome and Abu Dhabi.
Central Council voted 30-20 last Friday not to hold the inter-pros this year and the prospects of their permanent abandonment increased after GAA President Christy Cooney said he expected that a motion to that effect would come before Congress next year.
Walsh believes that the costs were issued to counties in an attempt to persuade them to vote against them. GAA director general Paraic Duffy wrote to the provincial secretaries in February seeking the costs for the last three years and circulated that information to counties earlier this month.
"I'm not happy with the way the whole thing has been handled. I wonder how many county boards actually discussed the inter-pros prior to last week's Central Council meeting," he said. "The players want the inter-pros retained and as long as that's the case, they should be fitted into the schedule. There's no reason why they can't be played in late October, early November."
Walsh intends to mobilise as much support as possible in an attempt to reinstate the competitions.
"I remember going to rugby inter-provincials in Thomond Park years ago which were played in front of a few hundred people -- but look at them now," said Walsh. "If properly timed and promoted, the hurling and football inter-provincials have a future and I don't believe we should let last weekend's decision sway us about the long-term situation. Just because some key people in the GAA want them off the programme is no reason why the rest of us should agree."
The inter-provincials were introduced in 1927 and reached the peak of their popularity in the 1950s when the finals in Croke Park on St Patrick's Day were watched by crowds of up to 50,000. But public interest began to wane in the 1970s and dropped off alarmingly in the 1990s.