BY CHRIS MCNULTY
THE Donegal manager, Jim McGuinness, has voiced strong support for the retention of the M Donnelly Inter-provincial series.
Only 600 spectators attended the final of the embattled ‘Railway Cup’ last weekend between Connacht and Ulster at Tuam Stadium.
The numbers have dwindled away and its lure for the public has long since gone – but McGuinness believes the kiss of life can be given by the GAA’s fixtures planners, particularly considering its standing with the top players.
McGuinness welcomed the comments of the President-elect, Aogán Ó Fearghail, who has suggested that the International Rules series ‘may well have run its course’ and for the inter-provincial competitions to be ‘revamped’ in order to become ‘a significant outlet for our top players’.
McGuinness played in the competition in the late 1990s and hopes to see it keep its place on the calendar.
“I believe that it can be more valuable to the Association than the International Rules,” said the 2012 All-Ireland winning manager.
“It would be more valuable for the players to play their own sport, to play along with the best players from their own province and against the best players from other provinces.
“I have very strong views that it is a competition that absolutely should be retained. An awful lot of our players really count it as a privilege to be selected to play for their respective province.
“I played in those games myself and it was an honour to be there. You were sitting in a dressing room with quality players. It was nice to be involved. These were boys who were backing against you week-in, week-out. To be in that dressing room was fantastic.”
McGuinness has urged GAA chiefs to have a serious brainstorm in a bid to save the struggling series.
He said: “The middle of the winter is not the time to play it – that just doesn’t entice a crowd to come.
“It is something that needs to be seriously looked at.
“The competition’s standing in the GAA’s calendar has diminished year-on-year. But it is something that could be revived.
“The time of year the competition is played, for one, should be examined. If it is played at the right time of the year and the proper resources were put into it then it could be a prestigious event again.”
McGuinness believes the games could survive if given a slot in the calendar perhaps between the National League and the Championship.
The Donegal boss would support a condensed Championship calendar, too.
He said: “The fixtures need looking at in a global sense. There is so much going on, but the Championships could be streamlined.
“It takes nine weeks to play the Ulster Championship, which consists of eight games. There should be nothing stopping them playing two games on the same weekend.
“Take this year’s Championship for example, the game between Donegal and Derry would have not much impact on Antrim versus Fermanagh or vice-versa. There is scope to shorten the Championships.”
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Posted: 7:30 am February 28, 2014