GAA Editor @BrianGBarry
GAA's interprovincial championships: Does the Railway Cup have a future?
Last Updated: 03/06/20 3:01pm
After 90 years of highs and lows, the GAA Interprovincial Championship - also known as the Railway Cup - appears to have run out of track.
The previously-annual competition would see the top stars in the country line out for their provinces in a four-team shootout.
In its peak through the 1950s and 1960s, it could pack Croke Park - with the finals taking place at the Jones' Road venue on St Patrick's Day. It was held in high regard, with winners' medals carrying huge prestige for the top players of the time.
The competition vacated the date of the national holiday after 1987, to make room for the club deciders taking central stage.
The interprovincial tournament then waned in stature, with flexible dates and dwindling crowds seeing it lose gravitas. In its latter years, the finals were even moved abroad Abu Dhabi.
Although the product remains an attractive one if marketed correctly and given proper buy-in - the narrow window for it to be played, the unavailability of players to due to other commitments and welfare concerns at the lack of 'down-time' in the calendar meant it is viewed as no longer viable.
Connacht's withdrawal ahead of the planned-2017 event proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back. It was clear from the competition's move into relative obscurity through the years that it was a case of death by a thousand cuts.
It was deemed that there's no place for the Railway Cup in the modern game right now.
"The reality is that it appears the players are interested but it's so hard for them at this time of the year with the extension of the club championships and to be honest the time of the year wouldn't do justice to any competition," Munster Council chief Jerry O'Sullivan told The Irish Times in 2017.
"The biggest factor is that the public support seems to have disappeared completely. We have all heard about the great days when you used to get 50 and 60,000 in Croke Park but in those days people didn't see the players at all. Now they can see them all the time.
"The calendar is virtually full all year now. There just aren't dates for a competition like this with the Australian tour, the All Stars and the Fenway hurling."
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Although it's unclear whether the tournament will be resurrected or if it will be consigned to history, there's no doubting its massive potential.
With a full complement available - what a task it would be to select the best 15 footballers in Ulster or hurlers in Munster.
How would those from the northern province stack up against Connacht's elite? Or in the small ball, could Leinster challenge an all-star side compromising of players from Tipperary, Limerick, Clare, Cork, Waterford and Kerry?
Over the coming weeks, we'll revive the selection process here on Sky Sports GAA - looking at one province each week through a series of articles. Firstly, we'll pick our starting XV, then ask the readers their thoughts on which players ought to make the grade.
Once we have all four provinces selected - it's over to the readers once again to decide who would triumph in a 'virtual Railway Cup'.