Leinster will be all out to get back on Railway Cup track

LEINSTER'S footballers take on Munster in Portlaoise tomorrow (3pm) looking to debunk the myth that the eastern province has fallen off the pace in the modern era of the Railway Cup.

Without an All-Ireland winner since Meath in 1999 and bereft even of a semi-finalist over the past two seasons, the statistics seem to back the assertion that Leinster is indeed struggling to keep up.

The province's manager is Luke Dempsey, who is looking to capture a third interprovincial title in three years this autumn.

"Leinster footballers are as good as anywhere else in the country," the new Longford manager said yesterday. "Where Leinster might have to pick up is in preparation. Look at the amount of preparation the last three All-Ireland winners have put in. It's been phenomenal.

"Westmeath stepped up in that sense this year too, and it worked for them. So people saying the standard of players is inferior in Leinster just aren't right. I'd be very disappointed if we don't win the interprovincial this year."

Unfortunately, spectators are likely to be few and far between tomorrow when Dempsey's side takes on their Munster counterparts in their semi-final in Portlaoise.

A true devotee of the competition, Dempsey accepts the days of gargantuan crowds turning out to watch it are over. However, he also stresses it wouldn't take much to give the tournament a much-needed fillip.

"The last three years the attendance has been abysmal but the football has been fantastic. The standard is just so high but there's no marketing of the games. Even in the papers there's only a little corner about it naming the teams.

"Nobody is saying it's going to be as big as it was in the past. Back then there was very little football for people to watch. Now people are spoiled. We have a full programme of inter-county games, International Rules, club championships, the lot. With a little bit of marketing though it could become more popular than it is now."

Dempsey had seven withdrawals from his panel of 31 this week but all were down to business commitments, holidays or clashes with club games.

"Players rate this as highly as the International Rules. From talking to Dessie Dolan I know the Rules lads were all looking forward to this and with that series on at home this year, they're hoping to make the trip to Paris for the final.

"Playing for any representative team is something players always look forward to. It broadens the whole parochialism of the game and gives players and coaches the chance to swap notes, as well as being a reward for all the hard work."

Munster have named seven of Kerry's All-Ireland winning team for the trip to the Midlands. Tipperary Allstar Declan Browne is named at full forward, while Munster finalists Limerick have five on the side.

Ulster face Connacht in the other semi-final at Castlebar tomorrow, which throws in at 2.15pm

The starting line-up contains players from six counties, with Tyrone supplying five including Sean Cavanagh.

Armagh's Paul McGrane will captain the side and is joined in midfield by Fermanagh's Martin McGrath.

Connacht bosses John O'Mahony and Peter Forde have yet to name their starting line-up but their panel includes International Rules stars Kieran McDonald and Padraig Joyce, plus the Meehan brothers Declan and Micheal.

MUNSTER (SF v Leinster): S O'Donnell (Limerick); T O'Sullivan (Kerry), C Whelan (Clare), M O'Riordan (Limerick); M Ó Sé (Kerry), E Fitzmaurice (Kerry), A O'Mahony (Kerry), J Galvin (Limerick), G Canty (Cork), E Brosnan (Kerry), M Gavin (Limerick), P Galvin (Kerry), C Fitzgerald (Limerick), D Browne (Tipperary), C Cooper (Kerry).

Subs: K Cremin (Kerry), C Mullane (Limerick) S Lucey (Limerick) C McCarthy (Cork), D Russell (Clare), S Kelly (Limerick), S Russell (Clare), L Ó'Lionain (Waterford), G Quinlan (Clare), G Burke (Tipperary).

LEINSTER (SF v Munster): G Connaughton (Westmeath); K Slattery (Offaly), T Kelly (Laois), J Keane (Westmeath); D Healy (Westmeath), B Cullen (Dublin), K Fitzpatrick (Laois); N Garvan (Laois), C McManus (Offaly); E Kelly (Meath), P Barden (Longford), J Doyle (Kildare); A Brogan (Dublin), P Kelleghan (Offaly), M Forde (Wexford).

Subs: F Byron (Laois), N McKeigue (Meath), P Wallace (Wexford), D Breen (Wexford), T Smullen (Longford), P Keenan (Louth), T Walsh (Carlow), S Rea (Carlow), P Davis (Longford).

ULSTER (v Connacht): M McVeigh (Down), E McNulty (Armagh), N McCusker (Derry), N McCready (Donegal), P McFlynn (Derry), B Monaghan (Donegal), R McMenamin (Tyrone), P McGrane capt (Armagh), M McGrath (Fermanagh), B Dooher (Tyrone), B McGuigan (Tyrone), S Cavanagh (Tyrone), S O'Neill (Tyrone), P Bradley (Derry), E Muldoon (Derry). Subs: P Hearty (Armagh), K McGuckin (Derry), R Sweeney (Donegal), R McCloskey (Fermanagh), R Johnston (Fermanagh), F Bellew (Armagh), P Loughran (Armagh), M Little (Fermanagh), M Lyng (Cavan), T Freeman (Monaghan), D Gordon (Down), K Madden (Antrim), K Hughes (Tyrone).

CONNACHT PANEL: J Bergin (Galway), M Brehony (Sligo), D Casey (Roscommon), M Clancy (Galway), G Cox (Roscommon), S Curran (Roscommon), J Devane (Galway), F Dolan (Roscommon), M Donnellan (Galway), K Fitzgerald (Galway), P Gardiner (Mayo), F Grehan (Roscommon), P Joyce (Galway), D Meehan (Galway), M Meehan (Galway), R McGarrity (Mayo), J McKeon (Leitrim), K McDonald (Mayo), F McGuinness (Leitrim), J Nallen (Mayo), E O'Hara (Sligo), S O'Neill (Roscommon), B O'Donoghue (Galway), S Quinn (Leitrim), G Ruane (Mayo), J White (Roscommon).

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