Railway Cup, Interpros: it doesn’t seem to matter. Connacht’s footballers – fielding a team showing three changes from the one named in advance – came off decidedly second-best in yesterday’s interprovincial semi-final against Ulster. The team from the west – comprising five lads from Roscommon, four from Sligo, three of our lot, two Herrin Chokers and one from Leitrim – were utterly outclassed by Ulster at Markievicz Park where they ended up suffering a 3-16 to 0-13 hammering. The defeat means that the gap back to the province’s last win in the competition now stretches to 43 years and you’d have to say that it’s more likely the thing will be abolished before a team from Connacht rouses itself sufficiently to win it again.
I’ve always been a fan of the Railway Cups and would concur completely with Mickey Harte’s vision of where a properly marketed interprovincial series stands in the scheme of things. (I also think that playing the tournament off straight after the All-Ireland and linking provincial representation in some way to the All-Star selection process has some merit, though I’d readily confess that I’m not so sure about how this might best be done in practice). I think it’s great that another shot has been made at reviving the competition and it looks as if some of the other provinces made a bit of an effort yesterday in trying to get plenty of high profile players on show. Looking at the side fielded by Fergie O’Donnell, however, you’d have to conclude that the westerners didn’t do the same. This is a pity because it would have been interesting to see how a team than bore a better resemblance to Connacht’s first string would have fared against the Northerners yesterday.
From a Mayo perspective, it was also disappointing to see that only three of the five county lads selected actually started – Kevin McLoughlin, Alan Dillon and Conor Mortimer all played but Donal Vaughan and Seamus O’Shea didn’t appear. The one bright note for the county was Conor’s haul of nine points (eight from frees) and it’s also noteworthy that Mort stated afterwards that “it’s a privilege to play for your province, always has been, always will be for as long as it goes on”. It’s a pity that this sentiment doesn’t appear to have been shared by some other higher-profile players from west of the Shannon.