Brian Flannery Reports
Waterford’s eagerly awaited home National Hurling League game against Galway fell foul to the dreadful weather last Sunday. So too did the Wexford versus Kilkenny and the Cork game against Tipperary at Pairc Uí Rinn with re-fixtures expected to be confirmed by the CCCC for this weekend.The incessant rain and a waterlogged pitch left Carlow referee David Hughes with no option but to cancel the game in the interest of player safety. This is a real shame certainly and in particular for those who had made the long journey from Galway. Predicting Irish weather isn’t an exact science and while many will decree that the game should have been cancelled earlier I wouldn’t fault the GAA on this one.
Plenty of coaches/referees face the same dilemma on almost a weekly basis with regard to similar decisions surrounding the scheduling of games and training. Sudden changes in weather can make fools of us all with most deciding to leave it as late as possible to make the difficult decision to cancel. The GAA calendar is pretty much a mess with a complete review long overdue. The need to find the correct balance between club and county is at the heart of the problem. The summer months most suited to hurling, May, June and July remain the sole preserve of the county game.
This conundrum requires some imagination to resolve but the various stakeholders appear incapable of arriving at a consensus. This story is likely to run and run without the requisite leadership to produce a workable solution. Talking of fixtures the only confirmed quarter-final fixture is Limerick v Laois and this is likely to be played as originally planned this Sunday with the remaining League placings finalised following the completion of all the group games.Whatever the outcome of the remaining fixtures this has been a very different league so far.Tipperary has lost three out of four of their games to date and now sits at the bottom of Division 1A with just two points.
In his post-game interview and following another defeat to their neighbours and rivals Kilkenny, Liam Sheedy suggested that Tipperary not qualifying for the knock-out stages wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen. A different League indeed.
There is little doubt that the pending restructure of the Hurling League for 2020 has caused a more relaxed attitude shown by teams to the league this season. For teams in Division 1A the spectre of relegation has been removed while promotion from Division 1B is now also a defunct target. Up to now, the pressure was there for teams present in Division 1A to retain their top tier position while those on the rung immediately below were all desperately trying to gain promotion.
The glamour and the majority share of the valuable league income belonged to the top tier teams. The visit of Offaly, Laois or Carlow doesn’t quite get the pulse racing or fill county grounds. TG4 and RTE tend to reserve their prime time for teams plying their trade in the top six grouping.All this meant that for the most part teams went hell for leather in their league games with the notion of experimentation becoming quite quaint. A couple of defeats for any team and the buzzards’ would be circling. Relegation came with a distinct stigma and was usually accompanied by an early championship exit.Interestingly the last two winners of the Liam MacCarthy both came from the less competitive Division 1B.No, while supporters will be keeping a keen eye on the scoreboard this weekend, the managers will be more interested in the individual player performances than the result. All players involved in this season’s League are in effect auditioning for a start on the championship.
New Waterford manager Paraic Fanning has to-date offered opportunities to Billy Nolan, Callum Lyons, Conor Prunty, D.J. Foran, Mikey Kearney, Jack Prendergast and Mark O’Brien to stake a claim for a more prominent role on the panel.Micheál Donoghue too has offered game time to Sean Linnane, Paul Killeen, Darren Morrissey; Jack Fitzpatrick, Seán Loftus, Seán Kilduff, Ronan O’Meara, Brian Concannon and Kevin Cooney in an attempt to develop more depth in his panel for the big Championship games later this summer.Whatever the result of the re-fixture, Waterford and Galway will (at the time of writing) both play a League quarter-final the following weekend and will be equals among their hurling peers for the 2020 Allianz National Hurling League.