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McGrath outlines blueprint to reinvent Railway Cup

By Declan Bogue

Pete McGrath stands on the Pairc Sean MacDiarmada pitch, Carrick-on-Shannon, listening to his captain for county and province Eoin Donnelly noting how proud McGrath's former county chairman and later selector in Down's glory days of the '90s, Danny Murphy, would have been to see a successful Ulster team.

Few would think to put the two together. Shows how small a world Ulster GAA can be, when you see two second cousins such as Eoin and Mattie Donnelly combining on a pitch to seal the Inter-Provincial trophy.

As much as prominent sections of the GAA want this competition gone, it clearly still has an appeal for the players, McGrath insists.

"The players have shown enthusiasm and they enjoy playing," he explained.

"They will cut lumps out of each other in the summer but, they enjoy coming together on occasions like this, exchanging stories and anecdotes and having a bit of craic.

"I think that is very important for people that are sworn enemies, and I say that in the best possible sporting sense."

He also offered his thoughts on the best way to attract a crowd better than the paltry attendance here in Leitrim.

"We are talking there about All-Ireland weekend when there is no club activity that weekend," said the Rostrevor man.

"You wouldn't have the All-Ireland finalists, but you would have all the other top players.

"Play the semi-finals in Dublin, Parnell Park on a Friday, final on a Saturday of the All-Ireland weekend. You have a captive audience and the players are in great shape."

As for the contest itself: "Given the time of year, and the fact that you had over 40 inter-county players here today prepared to commit to their province… To put up a display like that…

"The quality of football at times was excellent. There were mistakes needless to say, but there were some marvellous scores, marvellous catches, great bursts of combination play.

"To get that from these group of players at this time of year, all of whom have had a long hard season, is testament to how serious they take it. It is testimony to the potential that this competition has."

As someone who was about as a younger man to see the more illustrious years of the Railway Cup, he added: "I said to the players a few weeks ago that I felt honoured to be managing the Ulster squad. These are the best players in the province that are committing to the competition and to work with a squad where it doesn't matter where you look in the dressing room you see a highly-talented player.

"It's particularly satisfying when you get the job done, win the two matches and the competition. It's a really good feeling."

Later, as Pete's nephews Peter and Tony Scullion left the grounds and prepared to get on the team bus, they were heard to remark how difficult it is to get Pete out of a dressing room.

He just loves the gig. Loves that feeling. Who could blame him?

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