Wednesday, July 9, 2008

It's Groundhog Day.... Again

With the amount of hot air circulating around the hurling firmament in the last few days you'd swear the Montgolfier brothers were about the place. Another Leinster year over and hurling is apparently even deeper in debt. Galway, like the gadfly batchelor, are being asked once more to focus their mind and settle down with their eastern neighbours. About the only thing we have been spared is the "will someone please think of the children" catchcry. No amount of hyperbole has been spared in the p.r campaign. This blogger's former classmate the normally extremely clear headed James ( we never called him Jamesie ) O' Connor opined that a Kilkenny v Galway clash last Sunday would have brought 50,000 to headquarters. Granted the novelty and the very powerful Joe Canning hype may have brought a very decent crowd, but it would likely be nowhere near equalled in years two and three of the experiment. It may have been quickly forgotten that the meeting of the two sides in last years quarter final attracted only 40,000 to Croker; as part of a double header with Tipperary and Wexford. And ultimately for the switch to be effective there is the small matter of Galway's competitiveness. The way some talk about hurling realignment a force akin to the Rackard brothers Wexford of the 1950's is waiting in the wings to rattle Kilkenny's cages. We heard a lot last Sunday about hurling being a 70 minute game and the harsh reality is that three of the last four four times the counties have met in championship the tribesmen have been uncompetitive over the full duration of the game.

This isn't a carping cut at Galway ( we'll leave that for later in the summer when it all goes wrong and we'll hear the cry of where have all the minors gone ) rather a sober realisation of where we are. It's got to the stage where you half expect to see Bill Murray roundabouts the day after the Leinster final. There's more waling than at a banshee convention and sizable amounts of Wexford people questioning the manhood of their players, and wondering was it for this Vinegar Hill was fought. But didn't we have the same, only more trenchant, last July 1st only for Wexford to subsequently beat Tipperary whilst missing a hatful of goal chances in the process. Kilkenny meanwhile went on, either side of dispatching the Slaneysiders again, to vanquish Galway and Limerick without a blow scarcely being landed. But no lessons seem to have been learned. Wexford played a smattering of superb hurling last Sunday only to succumb when Eddie Brennan scored, extolling very different virtues, two truly brilliant goals. If the Wexford being intimidated by the black and amber theory can't be entirely dismissed, surely any county finding themselves ten points down after making a very decent fist of it, could be entitled to sidle every so surely towards disillusionment. Wexford's quarter final outing, particularly if the injuries to Keith Rossiter, Paul Roche and Stephen Nolan clear up will be fascinatingly instructive. If they are ultra competitive it could be time to start proceeding towards some unsettling conclusions. Like the tipping up of the Premier and Galway as serious threats to Kilkenny being the trumph of hope over empirical evidence. One of the more salient points in the whole talk show roundabout was that by a gentleman texter who wondered whether there would be as much concern if Kilkenny weren't as good. We may indeed need to begin edging towards the previously unthinkable idea that the cats are actually now underrated. Maybe there will be progress and by the next groundhog day we'll see the shadow of Kilkenny for what it actually is. Possibly by then we'll begin advocating some alternative ideas to improve the competitiveness of the sport. Like dividing Kilkenny in two or forcing those of their players suitably endowed, to ply their trade with the county's footballers.

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