Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Thiobraid Árann

Westside column – December 24th 2016

December 22nd, 2016

As expected nothing very dramatic emerged from County Convention at the weekend. The financial statement shows a modest profit, Liam McCarthy sits on the mantelpiece, so all is rosey in the premier garden.

Well, not quite. The dual player issue continues to simmer away in the background and got an airing on Friday night through that Upperchurch motion. Eventually it was ruled out of order but not before the proposers were allowed to make their point.

Conor O’Dwyer introduced the motion and there were follow-up contributions from Joe Hannigan, David Power and Mick Byrnes, all neatly choreographed to build a case. The gist of their argument is that the actions of the minor hurling management during the year denied players an option of playing both games; it discourages football among the youngsters and risks undermining all the good work that has been done in promoting the game.

All of which sounds very rational and reasonable except that it doesn’t address the core issue that Liam Cahill and colleagues had to grapple with. It’s not as if this minor management group made a whimsical decision or in some way acted out of malice towards the game of football. Instead they made a very practical call based on the hard experience of 2015.

And this is the essential point. There’s no ideological opposition to football here. Instead this particular management team learned an important lesson in 2015 and acted on it. It was courageous because it ran the risk of ridicule if their team subsequently performed poorly. Indeed we got immediate hints of what to expect from some quarters when they lost their opening game to Waterford. Ultimately management had the courage of their convictions and the resultant prize is now sitting on the sideboard.

It won’t work out that way every year but the one certainty is that if you continued with the 2015 model then it would never work out. It should be a surprise to nobody that if developing teenagers split their efforts fifty/fifty between two games then they’ll underperform in both.

Ultimately chairman, Michael Bourke, ruled his own club’s motion out of order stating that he had consulted Croke Park on the issue. Why the need to consult Croke Park? Surely it was self-evident that this was a nonsense motion which no county could enforce?

That motion was one of the few contentious issues at a convention where there were no elections. Ger Ryan and John Costigan did a neat shuffle on Munster Council; John stepped out and Ger stepped in again. Otherwise personnel remained unchanged. Next year will be different.

Speaking of next year and already eyes are looking ahead to 2017 and what promises to be an eventful season for both hurlers and footballers.

The hurlers head off to Miami next week and will have a very short lead-in to the league on their return. I’ve no doubt we’ll start the year as championship favourites but Michael Ryan will be trying to take his players to a place none from Tipperary have visited since 1965. We’ve a very poor record of title defence so that will be the main challenge for all in 2017.

Who will be the main threat? Probably the usual suspects. Kilkenny haven’t gone away you know and I’ve no doubt Cody is eagerly plotting revenge even at this dark time of winter. Incidentally wasn’t it amazing to watch the reaction down Noreside to Ger Loughnane’s comments about Cody staying on too long. Ned Quinn and Jackie Tyrrell were suitably outraged that anyone could question the great one. Anyway expect Kilkenny in 2017 to once again be among the main contenders.

It will be interesting to see who else stakes a claim. Galway will always be problematic for us and they seem to have found stability now with Micheal Donohue in charge. It will be a big year for Waterford who have come so far and now need to take the next step. Will Clare rebound under their new management? Likewise with Limerick? What about the Wexford project under Davy? Then there’s Cork to wonder about and see if there’s any signs of a revival there.

It’s going to be an interesting hurling year alright but we seem well equipped to take it on.
For the footballers too 2017 will be keenly watched. Building on the impact of 2016 won’t be easy. In the past we’ve seen several counties flash and then fade. Perhaps there’s more substance than that to this Tipperary team. Time will tell, though the likely loss of Peter Acheson will be a major blow.
It was curious to see Liam Kearns speak dismissively of the league recently as he highlighted a probable Munster semi-final game with Cork as their look-out day in 2017. I would have thought that getting up the league tables and playing consistently against better opposition was the key to long-term progress, but sure what would I know about football!

I’m not convinced either about our opposition to Pauric Duffy’s championship proposals. I understand the notion that if you take a big scalp you don’t want them to remain in the championship for a second bite. However, taking a more global view of it surely a developing county needs to be competing consistently against the best if they have any notion of some day winning an All Ireland. Once-off shocks won’t win the top prize.

Elsewhere, the Harty Cup competition is down to quarter-finals with three Tipperary schools still in the mix. Unfortunately all three are on the same side of the draw. Thurles CBS will face Our Lady’s Templemore in the stand-out quarter-final with Nenagh CBS going head-to-head with DLS Waterford in another. The winners of those two games then clash in a semi-final.

Thurles was the last of the quarter-final qualifiers after their victory over the Abbey at Dundrum on Wednesday of last week. Five points was the end margin in a deserved, if hard won, victory. It was tight and it was goal-less. In fact I can’t recall either goalie having to make a save of significance. There were few openings then but nothing lacking in effort from either side.

Thurles led by two at half time. It might have been greater but for a string of wides from both play and frees. The Abbey stayed within touching distance for most of the second half but in the absence of a major breakthrough the gap eventually stretched out.

One statistic sums up the game: the Abbey scored a mere two points from play against seven for Thurles. The winners had that little bit extra in attack which got them over the line against a very wholehearted Abbey effort.

Darragh Woods (Holycross) was the main shooter for Thurles, hitting ten of their fourteen points, seven from frees. Substitute, Darren Flood, Moycarkey, a much talked about upcoming talent, got one of the points of the game late in the hour.

For the Abbey Riain Doody hit seven of their nine points, all from frees. Trying to get county minors, Doody and Shane Neville, free in attack proved very difficult against a tight marking Thurles defence.
So the Abbey bows out of the Harty but can be well pleased that they were competitive in the highest grade. They’ll feel disappointed especially about their opening game against Nenagh CBS which went to extra time.

The draw hasn’t been kind to Thurles because Templemore is one of the fancied sides in the competition. That fixture will attract a lot of local interest when it’s played on January 11. Nenagh will be hopeful of making it an all-Tipp semi-final when they face DLS Waterford on the same day.

That’s all to be looked forward to in the New Year. For the moment it’s time to wish everyone a happy Christmas.

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