Tomorrow in Ennis, the hurling equivalent takes place. But rest assured that in one of hurling’s heartlands, there will be more than a couple of hundred present. It’s Munster against Connacht and while neither side will field the absolute best in either province, the visiting all-Galway westerners will still be paying this old competition due respect.
According to Galway and Connacht manager Anthony Cunningham, far from being an inconvenience on a league day-off it’s a decided advantage for his panel to have such a competitive game.
“It’s all about hurling at this time of the year, trying to get matches and get as much ball-work as possible. We’ll mix some of the team that was there (against Kilkenny, league win last Sunday) with a few other guys who need hurling. The last day (semi-final win over champions Leinster) we used some other players so we’ll probably sit down and assess that. It’s a run-out in Cusack Park as well (where Galway meet Clare in the league on Sunday week). We’re training for the week and it fits in nicely; we’re delighted that we have this match.”
“We’d see it as an advantage,” adds coach/selector Mattie Kenny. “If we’re not playing that Railway Cup final then we’re playing a 15-aside. Instead we’re playing a good, competitive game. As Anthony says it gives us a chance to give other lads that didn’t get a game against Kilkenny a good game under their belts.
Veteran attacker Damien Hayes sees the competition in a different light. An opportunity to play another good competitive game, yes, but an opportunity also to win a bit of silverware. The competition itself may have lost its lustre with the paying public but, for a huge number of players, it still retains some of the aura of old.
“It’s very important for us. There are lads in our panel who don’t have Railway Cup medals and I am one of the few who is lucky enough to have won one of them. We’re in the Railway Cup final and finals are there for winning. It’s very much part of our set-up and we’ll be fielding a strong team.
“The more games you play the better because your training is easier and that’s being very honest. We probably won’t train as hard this week and the match will give us a week or two’s worth of training sessions because you can’t beat matches.”
And the outcome? Well, while Munster has ‘home’ advantage, “We have an advantage because the Connacht set-up is all-Galway,” reckons Damien.
The hope is that whoever plays does the competition justice and will offer due respect to a most generous sponsor, and to those who turn up.
MUNSTER SQUAD: P Kelly, B Bugler and C Ryan (all Clare), A Nash, S O’Neill, T Kenny, P Cronin, P O’Sullivan, P Horgan (all Cork), T Condon, D O’Grady, G O’Mah ony, W McNamara, S Dowling, G Mulcahy (all Limerick), P Curran, B Maher, P Maher, S McGrath, P Maher, L Corbett, B O’Meara and E Kelly (all Tipp), M Walsh, S Sullivan, S Daniels (all Waterford).