Saturday 17 March 2018

Provincial championships here to stay -- Skelly

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Winning a provincial championship means too much to too many and that's why the competitions must be kept, Leinster chairman Martin Skelly insisted yesterday at the launch of the province's hurling and football championships.

Skelly defended the value of the provincial championships in the wake of growing calls for a shake up of the GAA's competitions and a move towards a system governed by eight groups of four.

"I know that Dublin and Kilkenny have won it a fair bit in the past few years, but the rest of the counties would give their right arm," he said.

"What would it mean to Kildare, Wicklow, Louth? What would it mean to Wexford hurlers or footballers to get back on the centre stage? There's a huge role for the provincial championships. Leinster counties are gearing themselves up for a right go at our championships."

The GAA have been embarking on a significant push to raise awareness of the provincial championships and have acknowledged that they must be more competitive than ever in a huge sporting summer.

Skelly insisted that the days of complacency over crowds showing up to support their counties were gone.

"It is harder to sell tickets than it was in the past. We are making a concerted effort to get people in because sometimes the championship starts, and people are asking, 'has the championship started?'.

"We want to let people know that the championship games are there. Nothing beats being there. That's our mantra. We have to get back to core values -- supporting your county.

"Other codes are having gala competitions, but there is a huge following for our games and we'll be ensuring No 1 spectator comfort."

Skelly has suggested that the time is not right for Dublin to be granted special provincial status that would guarantee them more significant funding, one of the pillars of the 'Blue Wave' strategic plan over five years unveiled last year. "I don't think any county is ready," he said.

He added that Croke Park would remain the venue for the provincial hurling final. The attendances at Leinster hurling finals have not exceeded 30,000 in recent years, which brings Nowlan Park and O'Moore Park into consideration.

"We have commitments to Croke Park. It is our national stadium, there is a spin-off for us. There are people who buy premium tickets and suites and so on. We have signed up for that deal and committed to Croke Park for a certain number of days per annum.

"We did consider it a few years ago but the counties that were involved had no stomach for it -- they wanted to come to Croke Park to play their Leinster final. For the foreseeable future Leinster finals will be taking place at Croke Park."

Irish Independent

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