Tuesday 20 February 2018

It's last-chance saloon yet again for inter-provincial series

DIT’s Kildare forward Tomas O’Connor powers past NUI Maynooth’s Alan McCarrick during yesterday’s Sigerson Cup clash at Bray Emmets
DIT’s Kildare forward Tomas O’Connor powers past NUI Maynooth’s Alan McCarrick during yesterday’s Sigerson Cup clash at Bray Emmets
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

WHEN it came to Central Council, GAA president Liam O'Neill pointed out this week, roughly four hands to every one were raised in favour of keeping the inter-provincial series alive.

It's a substantial majority, enough to invoke a rule change if needs be – not the easiest thing to do in the GAA – but whether that represents a desire to breathe new life into the series or only a reluctance to get rid of a once great competition, remains to be seen.

Either way, the inter-provincial series would again seem to be very much on its last chance.

This week, the GAA included a charity element to the football final which they hope will help secure the series' future for the next three years. Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin will be the beneficiary of all funds raised.

With finals played in Rome, Paris, New York, London and Abu Dhabi in recent years, O'Neill is hopeful that by the time 2015 rolls around, the series will be on a much more secure footing.

The series simply wouldn't survive another failure. It has already been given the kiss of life, having been axed from the calendar in 2010 and 2011 when then president Christy Cooney stated his preference to see the end of a competition that at one stage used to pack out Croke Park.

In the past, O'Neill has stated that if as many people who proclaim to back the series turned up at the matches, then there would be no issue at all.

This time around, along with helping a good cause, Croke Park have decided to piggyback on the All-Ireland club junior football final. The GPA have also made a commitment to make some of its members available to sign autographs.

With the football final on February 24, promotion of the final is being squeezed into a narrow window. But the idea is sound and, crucially, it has three years in which to establish itself.

The semi-finals are down for decision this weekend and that will restore the series to the public consciousness. Aside from the two All-Ireland club senior football semi-finals, it has pretty much a clear run at the weekend in terms of GAA action.

The 'Match for Michaela' showed that charities have serious pulling power, as almost 20,000 people turned out to watch Donegal take on a 'Rest of Ulster' selection late last year.

Martin Donnelly remains on board as sponsor. At the launch this week he joked about his own associations with some of the less glamorous aspects of the GAA.

"There's other things I sponsor in the GAA like handball and the Poc Fada and Meath hurling, things that maybe people would call lost causes. Maybe it's coming from Clare and always being the underdog," he quipped.

Ger O'Sullivan was first involved with the Munster football team in the early 1990s and has been manager for every series since 2008. A Cork selector under Conor Counihan until the end of 2012, O'Sullivan is in charge of the province's footballers once more.

"We lost to Ulster in the final last year. Ulster had good support there and it was one of the finest matches I saw all year."

Munster will announce their squad today, which will include representation from all six of the province's counties. However, they have secured some big names, including Marc O Se, Eoin Cadogan and Aidan Walsh.

Ulster also have a full house with nine counties represented on Joe Kernan's panel, including marquee names like Michael Murphy, Benny Coulter and Sean Cavanagh.

Irish Independent

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