Monday, June 16, 2008

I don't like ( post leinster championship ) Monday's

When you are an aspirant writer and seek out information about how best to aid/curb your affliction, one of the tips that is offered is that you should aim to write every day as a discipline. So following the maxim, the next question is; should time be spent breaking down the delights of the Leinster championship semi-finals. The attractions of a darkened room, and a wet towel seem manifold in comparison. Or perhaps time could be spent more profitably railing against what an ungrateful little country we showed ourselves to be last Friday. But the misery of an already established blog site loves company so we shall sally forth into the breach. Please read on. I know it mightn't be edifying for those of a sunny disposition. But Monday mornings can often be like that.

One thing you won't get for this blogger is any guff about the importance of development work being put into the Leinster counties lagging behind. This solution is usually postulated by folk who have no idea what work good bad or indifferent is being undertaken at ground level, and are unaware, for example, and care less, that Laois have been seriously competitive at under- 21 level for five years or so. So let's get one thing clear for those who might be wanting to plan their early summer weekends for the foreseeable future. It's likely that any of the other Leinster counties playing Kilkenny in the next few years will be an utterly futile exercise. Maybe if the cats have an off day ( and scarily it's arguable that yesterday wasn't an "on day" ) a Wexford combination bolstered by the return of Stephen Nolan, Barry Lambert, Des Mythen and Richie Kehoe might catch them if they have a large dollop of luck. If the volume of fine young Dublin players coming on to their panel continues at the current rate, it is theoretical that they too could pull off an unlikely win against the head. But a handful of these tyros will have to come up to Dotsie O' Callaghan's level for that to be achieved. But Offaly; sorry no chance. The quality,or otherwise, of Dublin's young players in their early 20's reminds one of one of the straws grasped to re the Faithful; that they have a very young panel. But where, alas, is the evidence that players who are at a certain level at 21/22 will burst into the stratosphere at a later date. It's instructive that Ger Oakley whose lack of skill stood out amidst the golden generation is a dutiful leader for the current side. The very sad reality is that Offaly haven't produced a top quality new player since Kevin Martin nearly fifteen years ago. Brendan Murphy, Rory Hannify and Brian Carroll haven't been the harbingers of hope they promised to be, and the coltish Stephen Browne and Michael Cordial have disappeared off the map altogether. And why should any of this surprise us. For the twenty years of success the county had husbanding the resources of effectively 20,000 people ( the aforementioned Martin was a rare example of a diamond being mined in the football end of the county ) created a loaves and fishes type miracle that the redeemer would have been proud of, and the Central Statistics Office could have done a glowing report about. It almost does a dis-service to the extraordinary deeds of 1980-2000 to write stories about Offaly's crop not being harvested with appropriate diligence. The media is periodically awash with stories about former greats now putting their shoulders to the wheel ( the same is happening in Wexford ) to arrest the decline. But although it does them great credit, when R.T.E announced in their pre-match colour piece that Johnny Pilkington was coaching the Offaly minors, they neglected to point out that the team were uncompetitive in the Leinster Championship. Sadly for little acorns to grow they need more than big men. More likely the unlikely fate of natural selection that we can't hope to understand.

As for Wexford it was only in the last few years that it dawned on this writer that they are the most unfairly scorned G.A.A county in the land. Most of their column inches reflect on their dismal underage hurling record and reflect on how the success of the Liam Griffin era was squandered. What is little reflected on is that with the exception of a few clubs in the north around Rathnure, and a few in the south bordered Fethard, most of the clubs in the county are of the dual variety. Look at the Wexford Senior hurlers in any given year and you'll find that more than half of them have played football for the county at some grade. This is a reality that can't but dilute their hurling output, even if that isn't being maximised to the nth degree. The argument put forward by the likes of Martin Breheny that Kilkenny should be forced to put far greater resources into football is unworkable, but it is still worth reflecting on occasionally that bar the attractions of a sunny evening in Mount Juliet, hurling is the only game in town in that neck of the woods. John Meyler's rant when Richie Kehoe left the panel may have been unfair to the young man in question, and not the right message to be send out. But it was perhaps an understandable reaction when you are attempting to thrive in the shadow of a neighbouring behemoth. If there has been a greater team in the history of the game ( the record book might suggest Cork of the early 40's or Tipp of the early 60's ) it's hard to imagine there has been a stronger panel than the current Kilkenny one. And their exemplary shooting yesterday brought to mind, that the 2006 All-Ireland was won with the team hitting wides for fun in both the semi and the final.

The rain at half-time yesterday brought a pathos to proceedings and a literal damp squib. But maybe we should all take a leaf from the Dr. Stranglove sub-title and stop worrying about the Leinster Championship, and if not love it, then scorn not it's simplicity, and just abide it. A final thought; on observing all the moderate and one sided G.A.A fare on offer at the weekend, it struck one that a golden age that started with Down's football semi- final victory over the Kingdom in 1991, ended unbeknownest to us with another rare Kerry setback in Croker, in that terrific final against Tyrone in 2005. And on that cheery note have a good week.

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