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John Tobin: 'Play the Inter-Provincials on All-Ireland weekend'
By John Harrington
Connacht Games manager John Tobin believes playing the Inter-Provincial semi-finals and final on the Friday and Saturday before the All-Ireland Finals could revive the competition.
Formerly known as the Railway Cup, the Inter-Provincials have a long and illustrious history, but for some time now have proven more popular with the players themselves than the public.
This year the semi-finals and finals in both codes will be played on Saturday and Sunday the 10th and 11th of December, a time of the year when many players are either on holiday or rehabbing from injuries or surgery.
The situation was even more difficult when the competition was held in February when inter-county managers were reluctant to release their players to the provincial panels.
Tobin, who manages the Connacht football team, believes the solution is to play on All-Ireland Final weekend because not only would most players be available, doing so would generate a buzz among the GAA public.
First of all I want to commend our authorities here in the CCCC and the GAA for moving to the 8th because the that intervening period between the second and third national league games that was available to us previously made it very difficult to get players, says Tobin.
In all fairness I'd have to say the five county managers in Connacht have been very supportive, but having said that it's down-time now. There are a lot of Mayo players who had an extensive and intensive season so a lot of them are having rehab now and some of them are taking holidays.
I just think that there may be an opportunity to look at playing it on the Friday night and Saturday night before the All-Ireland Finals, he told GAA.ie.
There are no club games, there's a break in all of the championships, most of the inter-county players are around Dublin that weekend anyway.
Now, it'll exclude the players from the two teams that are in the All-Ireland Final, but, invariably, some of those would be unavailable to you anyway.
But the other players would love coming, you could have the semi-finals on the Friday and the Final at half-seven on the Saturday evening in Parnell Park, I think it would generate a great buzz.
You have lots of supporters coming to Dublin that weekend too for All-Ireland weekend and on the Saturday evening they're looking for something to do. I think it's one way in which you could get the public to come and see it and support it.
And it also creates another dimension to All-Ireland weekend. It's a footballing weekend, you have the All-Ireland sevens in Kilmacud which already attracts a crowd.
That final is at six o'clock so anyway who wants more football after that could head on to Parnell Park for half seven or eight. People are only looking for something to do.
So I just think if this weekend this year doesn't attract the support I think it should attract, I think it would be a great idea to look at that All-Ireland Final weekend model.
Connacht are reigning Gaelic Football Inter-Provincial Champions.
Last years Inter-Provincials didnt take place because they were washed out by Storm Desmond and there was no other suitable slot in the calendar.
That means Connacht are the reigning football champions. Their 2014 success was their first title since 1969 and meant a lot to everyone associated with it.
Yeah, it was our first time in 45 years to win it so it did mean a lot to us, says Tobin. It meant to the players and everyone around, particularly as it was played in Tuam.
It got a good neutral support, and it meant a lot to all the players that played on the day. It was their first Inter-Provincial medal and for many of them their first and maybe only National medal. There's three national tournaments, the National League, the All-Ireland Championships, and the Railway Cup, so they're delighted to put that in their medal tray.
The public might not attend the matches in huge numbers, but the competition is surely still viable because the players themselves remain as passionate about representing their province as ever.
They are, says Tobin. The great irony about his is that the players love it, but the public have fallen out of love with it. I suppose that's a difficulty.
But every time you ask the players to play in it, they actually love playing in it. It's a very special tournament because fellas are going to college together then they're playing against one another, Galway against Mayo, you know what the rivalry is like there. And Roscommon against Leitrim.
But then they all get an opportunity to play together like some of them do in third level, and they enjoy that camaraderie and friendship and the opportunity to play together.
But it's also an opportunity to move to another level. You play club, then you want to play county, but I think the province is another bit more special again because you get the best of all the county players playing together.
They just enjoy that.