Should the Sam Maguire and Liam MacCarthy Cups come to Ruislip?
By Fiona O’Brien
Munster’s victorious hurling manager Anthony Daly has called for the annual interprovincial competitions to be brought to Ruislip to reignite interest in the game.
Many commentators believe the current competition is redundant, with less than a hundred spectators turning out to either the football or hurling semi-finals. But the Munster boss says that the best way to protect the competition is to bring it on a tour abroad and suggested Ruislip as the perfect destination for the cup finals.
“I believe there’s a great opening to play the two finals there. Bring the Liam MacCarthy and the Sam Maguire to Ruislip, it wouldn’t cost a fortune,” he said.
While the fixtures seem to be largely ignored by fans as the club championship is thriving, the quality of the teams were clear to see, as was the players’ desire to compete for a Railway Cup.
“There still is that bit of pride with lads. They want to play in it. Looking forward to it. Tail-end of the year. The Tipp lads have had a savage year. Awards, medals hanging off them,” said Daly. “For other lads who haven’t had a great year, might be nice to finish up with something positive.”
Meanwhile, former Waterford hurler John Mullane says that the attendances at the games were ‘soul destroying’ and that something would need to be done in order to stop the competitions ‘dying a death’. His suggestion to improve figures is to bring two charities, one for hurling and one for football, on board so that proceeds could go to charity.
He cited Jim Bolger’s Hurling for Cancer Research Game as the prime example of a boost it could give, with the annual event raising roughly €500,000 (£419, 064) a time.
“The players want to play it and are mad to play it so why don’t the GAA look to get two charities on board every year one for hurling and one for football?” he said. “It’s up to them to promote it then – get their dates and get bums on seats.
“I played in the Jim Bolger match and the way he goes about it the way they (GAA) should operate. There was more at his match than there was at our match in Thurles on Sunday – and we had the cream of the crop playing.
“We trained for the last three Wednesdays and had very good attendances at all three sessions. It’s a big thing for the players to represent their provinces but Sunday was soul-destroying – 100 people there to watch the likes of Seamie Callanan, Bubbles O’Dwyer, Paudie Maher, Diarmaid Byrnes, Noelie Connors, Anthony Nash, the cream of the crop.”
He went on to say that there would be more people attend a club game on a Thursday night, and that even the scheduling of the date would need to be amended to maximise attendance potential.
At present they come at the end of the provincial club matches and with the finals fixed just a week before Christmas some have accused the GAA of treating the games as an afterthought. This was further highlighted when the hurling final was fixed for a Thursday evening as opposed to a weekend clash.
“There are suggestions they could run the weekends off on the Friday and Saturday be fore the All-Ireland finals so get two charities on board ever year and let them drive it then.”
“Some of these hurlers, they’re more than just GAA players now, they’re role models, part of the Irish identity. They’re big names in Irish sport and we can’t get people to attend games? Jim Bolger gets a crowd every year, does well, raises money for charity. If he’s able to go and achieve it, I can’t see why, within GAA circles, we should leave this competition die a death.”
It is far from the treatment that the 1962 Cup was given. RTE broadcast the Leinster v Ulster final live, the first ever live broadcast of a GAA game. Back then it was played on St Patrick’s Day and with RTE only starting to transmit from the previous New Year’s Eve it shows the clout that the game was deemed to have. The airing came four months before the first ever episode of The Late Late Show.
Leinster hurling manager Ciaran Hetherton questioned why fans were even be charged in at the gate while writer Dermot Kavanagh asked why there wasn’t a fixed date that people could expect the matches to be on each year.
“The last time that happened was 1974, there was a Railway Cup final played before a replay of an All-Ireland club semifinal,” he told radio station Newstalk.
“There was about 15,000-16,000 people at it. That was the last big attendance. You would have to say, which match were the people showing up for?
“I think it either needs that, or it needs a definite slot in the calendar sometime around May, after the league finishes and before the Championship starts.”