A tale of two series

It’s difficult to miss the irony of the situation that sees the first International Rules test taking place just over 24 hours before the semi-finals of the Railway Cups.  But, of course, nobody needs to read the tea leaves in order to interpret what the GAA hierarchy feels about the much-maligned interprovincials, with Nickey Brennan himself declaring recently that the tournament is “past its sell-by date”.  He could well be right – the other day I came across an article in the Irish Times written by Sean Kilfeather in the mid-Seventies where he was bemoaning what he saw as the predictable annual calls for the scrapping of the Railway Cups way back then – but, as any morketing luvvie will confirm, if you don’t make any effort to sell a product, then it’s obvious it’ll still be on the shelf once its sell-by date comes around.

While the GAA devotes enormous effort to International Rules, the notion of playing for your province has been allowed to decline over a period of decades (and you have to go back as far as the Fifties for the apotheosis of the Railway Cups) to the point that nobody really bothers about its continued existence anymore.  It used to be said – this was Sean Kilfeather’s point – that the players wanted the series to continue but this doesn’t appear to be the case any longer, with most of the A-list cohort preferring a bit of sunshine and some makey-uppey football-cum-street fighting Down Under to representing their province in Gaelic football back at home.  It’s hard to blame them: if you had the choice between Perth and Kiltoom at this time of year, you’d do the same.

Mickey Harte has been swimming strongly against the official tide on this issue for some time but he made the interesting point recently that playing for your province is the highest level of representation within Gaelic football (and hurling) and that, as such, it should be the level that inter-county players aspire to reach.  He rightly derided the notion of Gaelic players “playing for their country” given that it’s not Gaelic football they’re playing and argued that the focus should instead be on building up the standard of Gaelic football overseas. (And there has been plenty of progress in this area in recent years, as Ronan outlines).  But Mickey remains a voice in the wilderness on this issue and given the likelihood (the risk of serious violence notwithstanding Down Under) that International Rules will remain a fixture in the GAA’s calender, it’s difficult to see how any meaningful enthusiasm can be re-injected into the Railway Cups.

PS: Tom Parsons has been named as one of the inter-change players in the Irish team for this morning’s first test in Perth.  Meanwhile, no announcement has yet been made about Connacht’s team to face Leinster in tomorrow’s Railway Cup football semi-final at Kiltoom (throw-in 5pm) but Johnno’s 25-man panel includes nine Mayo lads (details here).

6 thoughts on “A tale of two series

  1. Thanks for the reference WJ.

    Why don’t they take the inter-provincials abroad every year, like they did a few years ago – hurling in Rome in 2003 and football to Rome in 2004. (Please correct me if wrong.)

    O.k. finding an appropriate sized venue/pitch is not easy but at least it would be promoting GAA, both football AND hurling. It would also allow for the players to be rewarded with a trip abroad and the officials would get in their junket for the year. Am sure a bit of creative morketing, say with Tourism Ireland, could generate a bit of interest too.

    Probably not high profile enough for them though.

    Can’t help thinking that they enjoy the publicity and attention generated by the on-field scrapping!

  2. I’m sure if they did put some kind of push behind it, it could still form part of the GAA calender but I think that, after all these years of drift, it’d need to be something dramatic. I’ve always felt that the best time to play the series is in the weeks after the All-Ireland, when the weather is still okay and we’re all still suffering withdrawal symptoms. If it could be linked in some way with the All-Stars and/or GPA Team of the Year (in that the provincial teams could be a longlist for the All-Stars/GPA team or something like that), that might add a bit of spice. However, I can’t see it happening and, unless there’s an outbreak of serious belting in the second Rules test next weekend, it looks as if we’re stuck with the Aussies. As long as they’re on the scene, nothing will be done to revive the inter-pros.

  3. I think there should be some combination of your ideas. Somewhere in Europe (Brittany, perhaps?), early October (players and officials who want to would still have time for Australia later), and only players chosen for it can become All-Stars. As for venues, as long as there aren’t many spectators expected, they could try to find a large enough patch of grass, rent it from the farmer or park administration or whomever owns it, and put up lines, goals, and portable stands.

  4. Willie Joe, I managed to sneak out of the office on Friday to watch the match up here in the big shmoke……Parsons looked pretty poor in my humble opinion….

    he kicked a few woeful “passes” to members of his own team that the Aussies created attacks from….

    From what I could see also, he didnt seem to do much of his trademark high fielding….

  5. I definitely agree with the notion of putting the Railway Cup on sooner after the All-Ireland, as that’s the time it’ll draw most interest from the suddenly GAA-starved public. However the question is whether it is a contest or not – is it something that the players could really care about or is it more of a showpiece game, like the Pro Bowl in American football? (This fits in with your idea about tying it in with the All Stars, as playing in the Pro Bowl is regarded as an honour). Either way, the Railway Cup is a bit of a damp squib as it is and the GAA could do with deciding if they’re going to do it or if they’re not, rather than going at it half-arsed as they currently are.

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