Monday 18 December 2017

Ailing Railway Cups heading for derailment as Connacht consider opt-out

A general view of the scoreboard during Railway Cup game between Leinster and Connacht
A general view of the scoreboard during Railway Cup game between Leinster and Connacht
Connacht secretary John Prenty. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

The interprovincial championships - known for decades as the Railway Cups - could be about to reach the end of the line as Connacht plan to discuss withdrawing from this year's competitions.

It's on the agenda for the next meeting of their provincial council, where a decision will be taken on whether to follow up on an opt-out suggestion made by Connacht secretary John Prenty in this year's annual report.

He has been a long-time critic of the ailing competition, which has been given a December setting in recent years, resulting in apathy among many players and little public interest.

This year's competition is scheduled for December 9/10, but if Connacht were to withdraw, it's most unlikely the GAA would proceed with three provinces.

Senior figures in Leinster and Munster have also expressed reservations over the merit of continuing with the interpros in recent years, leaving Ulster as the only steadfast advocate of competitions that were launched 90 years ago.

They peaked in popularity in the 1950s, with a the highest-ever attendance in 1954 when 49,023 saw Leinster record a hurling/football double in Croke Park on St Patrick's Day.

However, they went into decline in the 1960s and have often been watched by tiny crowds in recent years.

Connacht council chairman Mick Rock said the province's approach to the interpros would be discussed at its next meeting.

"We'll see what people think but obviously there's a problem with a competition when it's hard to get players to commit to it," he said.

The matter was raised at a Leitrim County Board meeting this week, where it was decided to consult with clubs prior to deciding on a position.

Meanwhile, the biggest crowd for an Allianz Hurling League game so far this year is expected in Semple Stadium tonight (7.0) when Tipperary and Kilkenny clash for the first time since the All-Ireland final.

Tipp have already qualified for the League quarter-finals after winning their first three games, while Kilkenny need a victory to avoid being dragged into the relegation zone ahead of the final round.

Waterford will secure a place in the quarter-finals for a third successive year if they beat Cork tomorrow.

Former Armagh midfielder Jarlath Burns has indicated that he intends to run for the GAA presidency but has not given a specific time-scale. However, it's thought he will contest the next election in 2020.

Irish Independent

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