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Walsh Cup final switch boosts Galway

THE integration of Galway hurling into Leinster will take another significant step forward if they reach the Walsh Cup final which, for the first time, will be played in either Ballinasloe or Athenry on February 6.

Moving west for the final is the latest advance in a relationship which has seen Galway compete in the Leinster SH championship for the past two years and which is set to continue until at least 2013.

Awarding Galway home advantage if they reach the Walsh Cup final will be seen as an important gesture by the Leinster Council and could lead to championship games being played west of the Shannon inside the next few years.

Galway play DIT in the Walsh Cup in Ballinasloe next Sunday but that's down to the structure of the competition, which stipulates that county teams are automatically granted home advantage when drawn against colleges.

Despite some opposition in Galway to the decision to join the Leinster championship, the general view is that it has worked well.

"I certainly believe that the arrival of Galway and Antrim has been good for both counties and for Leinster. Prior to that, the Leinster championship was struggling badly. It has been better over the last two years," said Leinster CEO Michael Delaney.

The question of Galway's participation in Leinster at minor and U-21 level remains on the agenda but it will be some time before a final decision is made. Galway Hurling Board chairman Joe Byrne said that there is considerable support in Galway for competing in Leinster at U-21 level but less so for the minor grade.

Overall, he believes that Galway's involvement with Leinster is very positive

"It's working for both of us and what we're now trying to do is get a win-win situation across a number of fronts. We'll be meeting the Leinster Council again shortly to discuss the U-21 and minor situation," Byrne said.

Galway seniors need to beat DIT and Antrim or Dublin to reach the Walsh Cup final, which they won last year with a victory over Dublin.

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Meanwhile, provincial councils are this week considering a request from Croke Park to review admission prices for this year's championship. Central Council have cut prices for the National Leagues and are clearly expecting the provincial councils to do likewise.

However, it's possible that the provinces will opt to increase concession and group rates rather than cut basic ticket prices.

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