For a while on Sunday last it looked as though Connacht’s wait for Railway Cup glory, which now stands at 44 years, may have been coming to an end but unfortunately for the Leitrim players Emlyn Mulligan and Paul Brennan who were on provincial duty and Brian Breen who patrolled the sideline as a selector, there was to be a cruel twist in the tale.
Leading by five points as the game entered its final five minutes Connacht appeared to be in control of last Sunday’s Interpovincial semi-final in Pearse Park, Longford but in the closing stages, Leinster and in particular Bernard Brogan came roaring back. Brogan proved to be one of the star performers and it was his late score which ultimately ensured it will be Leinster who compete in this weekend’s final in Croke Park.
Although the interprovincial competition is not held in the same high esteem it once was, the calibre of players that answered their provinces call indicate it is still an important competition for the players and the final score of 1-20 to 1-21 gives an indication of the attacking quality at both sides disposal.
While some may suggest that such a high scorelines would be typical of an challenge match, Brian Breen stressed that was not the case. “It was a great game, it wasn’t an exhibition game. There were some fantastic scores, Emlyn played very well and (Mayo’s) Michael Conroy was on fire.”
Explaining the difficulties experienced by Connacht in the closing stages Barney stated, “The wind was very hard to play against in the second half and it got clogged up around midfield in the second half and we couldn’t release Michael and Emlyn.”
While the standard of play received widespread praise the fact that only in the region of 400 people attended the game would suggest the Interprovincial competition is in need of a serious review.
Addressing what he feels could be done to increase the profile of the competition Brian said, “I personally don’t think the GAA give it enough credit. Until HQ treat it with the respect it deserves you’ll have that but every player wants to play. Also the time of year isn’t suitable. If players have any niggling injury they don’t want to play and that is understandable.”
Explaining why Connacht were lacking in terms of substitutes to make adjustments in the closing stages the Ballinamore man said, “We didn’t know until the weekend who was available. James Horan was very good with us in terms of releasing players but some players were pulled at the last minute and then we had nobody to bring on.”
Turning his attention to Leitrim’s next League game against Carlow on March 3, Brian stated he was speaking to London manager Paul Coggins after the exiles were narrowly beaten by Carlow last Saturday.
“From speaking with Paul it sounded as though London were unlucky but we need to get back to our FBD form and do it quickly. We are hanging on the edge at the moment, a win puts us back in business but that win is needed badly.”