Thursday 14 December 2017

McGrath: Finding ideal time the big problem facing Railway Cup

Ulster Football Manager Pete McGrath. Photo: Sportsfile
Ulster Football Manager Pete McGrath. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Verney

The Railway Cup is scarcely recognisable from the prestigious competition which Pete McGrath grew up watching on live television but it has left "an indelible mark" on him and he believes it still merits inclusion in a busy GAA calendar .

Dwindling attendances and a general apathy towards the Interprovincial competitions has resulted in questions over its merit but Ulster manager McGrath feels it still serves an important purpose.

McGrath's side face Munster in Saturday's semi-final in Parnell Park (4.0), and a passion still burns bright inside the Down All-Ireland-winning boss despite being short many of his biggest names as players wind down after gruelling club and county campaigns.

"It did leave an indelible mark with me that the Railway Cup matters. Throughout the so-called years of decline, particularly in Ulster, the then manager Brian McEniff, and the players, had great enthusiasm for it and that has sustained itself," McGrath said.

"There have been difficulties and it's hard to know when the ideal time would be, the calendar is packed with fixtures now.

"I'm currently managing Fermanagh and sometimes when you're contacting players in other counties and you see they're getting rehab done you might be sceptical but I'm not because I know what's happening in my own county.

"Michael Murphy is taking a complete break from football for the moment, Conor McManus needs this time of year for rehab and that type of thing. The two Cavanaghs, Seán and Colm, are on holiday.

"There's no doubt that a number of GAA players take holidays in December because it's one of the few times they're sure of not missing out anything. There is a wedding in Donegal involving quite a lot of their players so they're out.

"But I think this is maybe something that's happening in all the provinces as well. You get on with it. I'd be more than happy that the squad we have would be up to the mark."

Elsewhere, reigning Wexford senior hurling champions Oulart-The Ballagh have been hit with a significant blow after Frank Flannery stepped down as manager following two years at the helm.

The Cork native, who was recently linked with the Wexford job later filled by Davy Fitzgerald and also vacated his role with the Cork senior hurlers in August, helped the Model side make their Leinster SHC club title breakthrough in 2015.

Flannery coached the Cork minor hurlers in 2012 and 2013, and worked with the Waterford seniors in Derek McGrath's first year in charge and it remains to be seen if McGrath will make a move to secure Flannery's services again, as the Déise hunt for a coach following Fintan O'Connor's recent departure.

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