Munster four predict end to McGrath Cup boycott
LEADING officials from the four counties that will boycott this year's McGrath Cup are confident that this will be the last time their players will have to snub the competition.
Limerick, Clare, Waterford and Tipperary will all miss this year's pre-season Munster senior football tournament. which gets under way across the province this afternoon. They have also signalled that they will drop out of next year's provincial championship if the Munster Council does not reverse their decision to keep Cork and Kerry apart until the final.
The playing squads from all counties have also withdrawn their services for this year's interprovincial series.
The players remain aggrieved that the Munster Council went ahead with their decision to seed Cork and Kerry in this year's championship series without any consultation with the other county squads.
However, it's likely that the counties will come together to propose a new format for the 2015 Munster championship and will recommend that the four play off a round-robin series with the top two qualifying to meet Cork and Kerry in the Munster semi-finals on an open draw basis.
"What's happened for this year cannot now be changed but no one is going to tolerate it for next year," one county executive told the Sunday Independent.
"We in the four counties affected have to hold our hands up on this one too -- we were caught napping with the suggestion to keep Cork and Kerry apart until the final. By the time counties went to vote, and an alternative format had been put forward, some county boards had no mandate to vote for what they perceived to be the best way forward."
Independent financial studies are also being conducted in a bid to demonstrate to the provincial council that overall gate receipts will not necessarily be higher if the big two don't meet until the final.
"We are confident that figures will show that if one of the big guns doesn't reach the final the finances will still stack up," said another leading official. "You'll still have a Cork-Kerry semi-final whereas the underdog supporters will travel to the final in big numbers so financially we don't consider there is any big hit if you don't have the traditional powers in the decider.
"The bottom line is that we will miss the McGrath Cup. It would have been a help for us with the league approaching, but we could not ask our players to take part in an unfair system. We are extremely hopeful that this will be the last year we see this, though. We are confident that a new path will be drawn for the 2015 provincial championships. But everything will have to be handled sensitively."
The players, meanwhile, remain defiant that they will not participate in next year's provincial series if the format is not changed.
"It seriously disadvantages our counties' provincial championship prospects but the decision was also taken without certain counties being properly mandated to vote," said a player from one of the four counties involved.
"We're caught by the rules for the 2014 season but we will be approaching our respective county boards to seek assurances that the decision will be revisited next year.
"We don't want to be losing out on games, either in the McGrath Cup or the Railway Cup football series. Players from our four counties have been a serious part of the Munster team in recent years."
Players from the squads will meet before the start of this year's National Football League to monitor the situation.