On Sunday next Glennon Brothers Pearse Park will stage the semi-final of the Martin Donnelly Interprovincial Series between Leinster and Connacht, throw-in 2pm.
Leinster GAA Council Chairman Martin Skelly is delighted that the game will take place in his home county: “I’m proud that it’s in Longford”, he told the Leader. “We looked at the venues that are close for both provinces. It was the opinion of the Leinster Council that Pearse Park was as good, if not better, than any of the other places to stage the game because there is a huge rivalry between the two provinces. Longford is an ideal venue. It’s an all-weather pitch and 50% of the ground is covered. It’s a great stadium for a game like this and it creates an atmosphere.”
Skelly is hopeful that the people of Longford and the neighbouring counties will come out and support both teams on Sunday: “I hope the Longford people will come out and support the heroes of Leinster and that the people of Connacht make the short journey across the Shannon to see their star players in action. Longford players Sean McCormack, Barry Gilleran and Michael Quinn are selected for the Leinster squad which is great.”
There has been a concerted effort in recent years to make the series popular again. In years gone by the Railway Cup (as it was known then) always captured the public’s interest but crowds have declined over the years. Newtowncashel native Skelly fully supports the competition: “Leinster have always been positive about the competition. We feel it’s worth persisting with. It’s a fantastic opportunity for players and a tremendous honour for them to be picked. Players still regard the competition very highly and they want to play for their province. As long as they are positive about the competition we will certainly support it in Leinster.”
As well as the match on Sunday, youngsters in Longford and surrounding counties have the opportunity to be coached by the likes of Stephen Cluxton, Bernard Brogan, John Heslin and other top players on Saturday: “There will be a number of coaching sessions around the county on Saturday and the four members of the Leinster management team - Pat Gilroy, Sean Boylan, Mickey Whelan and Ciaran McManus - along with star players will conduct them. That’s also open to clubs in surrounding counties too. It is a great chance for youngsters to meet some of the best players of the current generation,” admitted Skelly.
The final of the Interprovincial Series will be played in Croke Park on Sunday February 24th and Skelly revealed that from this year on all proceeds will go to a nominated charity: “The final will be in Croke Park the following week. There’s a new concept in the fact that the GAA will donate all the proceeds of the final to Crumlin Children’s Hospital. As long as the competition continues to run there will be a nominated charity that will benefit.”