Jason Doherty: There's a unique charm to the Interprovincial Championship

The Mayo footballer discusses what makes the competition so appealing to the football purist

Jason Doherty

Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer 

Connacht's Jason Doherty admits that there is a certain charm to the Interprovincial Championship, despite fears that the competition may become obsolete in the near future.

Speaking to this website last week, Dermot Kavanagh, author of The Story of Interprovincial Hurling — Railway Shield, Tailteann Games, Railway Cup 1905-2015, discussed the history of the competition and explained that without a set date in the calendar, it could be removed from the GAA calendar.

Mayo inter-county footballer Doherty, however, says that although it may not be at the forefront of people's thoughts, there is a lot to admire about the competition.

"It was a funny game to go into, there was no real expectations," he tells Newstalk.com. "We were just going out and playing. I think we actually played quite well, I know six points on the scoreboard [Doherty's tally] looks good but we ended up winning a few frees and getting a few handy enough one close to goal.

"The fact that you’re playing without system and man-marking systems, you just get a freer license to get up and support attacks."

Playing outside the rigid systems of club and inter-county football allows for a more experimental style of play and one that amounts to a less restricted game of football.

"You’re allowed to do that because you know the other team haven’t trained together either and they’ll be doing the same.

"Whereas, if another team were coming with a set structure and a set game-plan, it wouldn’t be quite as easy to go and play off the cuff. When both teams are doing it it makes for a free flowing game. It was high scoring and it was quite up and down. You try different things in terms of how many bodies get up and attack. Now, there was still bodies dropping back but it definitely allowed for a lot more free flowing football."

Leinster's John Small puts pressure on Adrian Varley during last weekend's Interprovincial Championship semi-final at Parnell Park. Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Arguably the championship is one for the purist who bemoans the emergence of defensive systems and a negative style of play. Doherty admits "we turned up on the day and did the best that we could" because of the lack of training the team were afforded. Moreover, playing alongside players which you compete so fiercely against can be a sobering experience.

"It’s a weird scenario. I hadn’t played or got on the pitch with the interpros, in 2013 a couple of us were pulled because of Sigerson. It’s weird looking for the ball and looking to pass to guys that you’ll be coming up with reasons to hate them next June and July."

One solution to promoting the game would be to schedule it alongside club championship games for a Croke Park date in March, when the GAA season is starting to catch fire.

"I don’t think it would be any harm for it to be matched up on a Paddy’s Day in Croker. If it’s during the season, you’re hitting that March time when players are gaining fitness through league.

"Some players would have to manage games and manage the effort you’re putting on the body, but it would be an easier time to do. People are in that training mindset and lads often look to get more football in the legs that time of year.

"Right now, it can be a difficult time of year. Players are trying to maximise their off time because there are lads who are still managing injuries. There’s guys at different stages of preseason, some who are just getting back down to it and others who are still involved in the club championships.

"Getting numbers can be quite difficult. Growing up I remember going to interprovincial games. It’s a unique competition and it’s another cup or medal that it would be nice to have.

"But it's just the toll of the long season. Once January hits again you’re getting back into it. Football really starts and that’s the inter-county season off again. That’s only about three weeks away. 

"People are conscious of that and conscious of getting a weekend away. Especially now with college league, there’s not a lot of time off as it is. It’s just a difficult time of year to get that interest level up."

Connacht face Ulster this weekend in the Interprovincial Championship final, with the Westerners looking to defend their title for the first time since the 1950s.