Last weekend was something of a ‘nothing happening’ couple of days as the action was confined to the Railway Cup semi-finals (now renamed the M Donnelly Tournament) and the semi finals of the Senior Club Football Championships.

Antrim had nine hurlers playing in the Ulster versus Connacht semi-final, making one wonder just how many Antrim men would have been playing if the Loughgiel group had have been available.

A Galway dominated Connaught team won by 3-19 to 1-15 though Ulster manager Gregory O'Kane felt that his side would have fared better if midfielder Neil McManus had not been sent off at the end of the first half after receiving his second yellow card.

The lasting impression of all the games played in the M Donnelly Tournament was that this year should see the end of the competition.

The public simply are not interested in it. The best attendance was one of 1,000 to watch the Munster-Leinster hurling, there was 200 at the Connaught-Ulster hurling and the total paying attendance at the four games played was 3500.  President Christy Cooney has already expressed his disappointment despite the attempts at awakening interest by holding press launches last week and running a few television plugs.

The Provincial Councils had promised to run the tournament for two years but after the debacle last weekend that should be the end of it.


Crossmaglen Rangers at least stirred some interest by beating Kerry's Dr Crokes by 3-8 to 2-8 and that after trailing by 1-5 to 0-1 and then having to play the second half with a man sent off.

It seems most likely that on St Patrick's Day Crossmaglen will win their sixth club title and be one win off current record holders Nemo Rangers of Cork who have seven.

The most remarkable aspect of the win was the manner in which Crossmaglen restricted the famous Gooch Cooper to a single point during the game and it was achieved without conceding frees.

League opener

This weekend sees the start of the National Hurling League and in Division 1B we will have Wexford as visitors to Casement Park (throw in 1.30pm on Sunday) and it would do wonders for our morale if we could begin with a win as we have done against this opposition twice in the recent past.

Although a full strength Antrim only lost to Wexford in last year's League by a single point, if we had the likes of Liam Watson playing it may have been a different story but this time none of the Loughgiel players will be available.

A source in Wexford tells me that his county will be fielding an experimental lineup and for that matter so will Antrim.

Wexford have been slipping down the ratings in recent years and have been overtaken by Dublin as the second best hurling side in Leinster.

Jerry Wallace has been working his charges very hard in training and if he had a full panel to pick from would be confident of a winning start but the chances are that Antrim will be edged out by a narrow margin, just like last year.

Limerick, the county that should have been promoted to Division 1A after last year's League are the raging hot favourites to claim one of the promotion spots but the fight for second will be hectic.

Offaly have just finished a good run in the Walsh Cup. If Antrim could get off to a good start on Sunday we could be holding out for a place in that dog fight.

Manager payments

The big issue to be decided this week will come on Friday when the officials from every county will attend Croke Park  give their decision on the thorny issue of payment to managers/trainers.

Few counties have to date expressed a view on the subject, making one suspect that they are already paying under the counter but are going to tell the Friday gathering that they are against paying.

One county has at least an honest stance - Cork say that up to now they do not pay but would welcome the opportunity of being allowed to do so and will be voting to have payment allowed.

But then, after Dublin, Cork are the richest county in Ireland.  Dublin are a mystery. They are saying nothing at the moment but are the public to believe that the architect of the current Dublin revival, Anthony Daly, is not recompensed for three or four trips from his home in Clare right across the land to Dublin other than to receive travelling expenses?

On the other hand maybe he is a dedicated hurling man like Jerry Wallace is in Antrim - Jerry has publicly stated this week that he does not want paid, indeed he would walk away if he offered anything more than travelling expenses for making the long journey from Cork to Antrim.

There are people who are happy to take on jobs and not seek a payment.

I think that officially Friday's meeting will say no to payments.

That will be an answer but how can it be policed when every one knows that even junior clubs in counties such as our own are regularly paying team managers?

This Friday will not necessarily see a final solution and it will be of great interest to see what penalties will accrue to those counties that take a different stance.