Last September GAA president Nickey Brennan told reporters in Croke Park that the M Donnelly Interprovincials were ‘past their sell-by-date’. The axe seemed ready to fall.
Not so. Yesterday, Brennan’s successor sat in the multi-billion euro Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi ahead of today’s hurling final between Leinster and Connacht at the Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club where he all but gave the old competition the kiss of life.
“I said at the launch (last month) that I’m positively disposed to this competition,” said president elect Christy Cooney. “As long as the players want it and we have the support for it, we at national level will continue to give it the support. It’s is down to the players. They treasure it and as long as they enjoy that and want to play we’ll support it.”
Cooney was effusive in his praise for Martin Donnelly, whose sponsorship has served as a life support machine in recent years, as well as Etihad who proposed bringing today’s game to the United Arab Emirates.
This weekend, Cooney added, will tell a lot about the competition’s long-term health but the concept of playing one of the interprovincial finals abroad seems embedded into any salvage plans for the it’s future.
“There is a certain attractiveness to go overseas to play, whether it be Abu Dhabi or the States or Britain,” said Cooney. “I’m sure the players will agree it is a great occasion for them, a bit of a break in early season as well.
“There is definitely a possibility that this could happen again in the future. That’s not to say we won’t play it in Ireland again but it has real opportunities and possibilities to play it away from home. Why not?”
CONNACHT (Galway unless stated): C Callanan; M Ryan, D McClearn, C O’Donovan; A Coen, B Costello, G Mahon; A Cullinane, K Raymond (Sligo); P Kililea, M Kerins, K Hooban; N Healy, R Murray, A Callanan.
LEINSTER: PJ Ryan (Kilkenny); D Franks, D Kenny (both Offaly), J Tyrrell; T Walsh, JJ Delaney (all Kilkenny), M Jacob (Wexford); R Hanniffy (Offaly), E Quigley (Wexford); M Rice, H Shefflin (both Kilkenny), D Lyng (Wexford); D O’Callaghan (Dublin), J Bergin (Offaly), E Brennan (Kilkenny).