KILKENNY’S hurling world may be a bright, wonderful and hugely promising place right now, but the zone occupied by the struggling footballers was rarely if ever darker.
One of the latest dark, dark chapters in the sorry football story was, ironically, written under lights in Ballyragget last week when the under-21 team was walloped to the tune of 50 points by a good Louth side in the Leinster championship. There was little difference on Sunday in Freshford when the seniors were walloped by Fermanagh in the National League.
The under-21 result was the worst defeat suffered by a county team for as long as anyone could remember. Sadly, the story surrounding the make up and performance of the team plunged the game into a crisis yet again.
According to those involved with the team, 11 of the panel nominated failed to turn up. The team that started showed five changes in personnel from the one selected. And team handlers were frantically ’phoning around up to 20 minutes before the start looking for players to make up numbers.
Eventually Kilkenny got 15 players, but they hadn’t any subs.
No real panel there
There was a call by an official on the sideline during the match that those who didn’t turn up should be suspended, but for what you have to ask?
The players, or squad, whatever way you want to refer to it, didn’t have one training session together. So in real terms there wasn’t even a panel there.
What appears to have happened was that a bunch of players were nominated and contacted to turn up for the match...... a championship match.
In ‘a perhaps and maybe sort of way’ a panel was in existence, but in real terms was there one there? Seeing that the supposed group didn’t have one collective training session, what would you think?
The situation concerning things in the build up to the game should be investigated by the County Board, because the image of Kilkenny took an awful hammering over the entire sorry affair. Not that image would be all important, but in a county that can do things ever so well on the hurling side of things, surely it can do better with football!
Everyone agrees and accepts that the preference among players in Kilkenny is to play hurling, but there has to be a place for football. But there is no place for football, or any game, run in the slipshod manner that apparently pertained with this under-21 group.
Perhaps now is the time for the County Board to step in and take over all things football from the Football Board. This doesn’t have to be a permanent arrangement. The County Board could appoint selected people to supervise things, put structures in place over a year, two or three to get a bit of momentum going, and then maybe the Football Board could be resurrected again.
Hurling all powerful
Right now hurling is all powerful in Kilkenny, at club and county level. I would be the first to applaud and promote that, but there has to be a tier of players who are interested in playing football for the county, and they have to be encouraged and given a chance.
The thing is first to find them, and then mould them into a group. A proper, structured order is vital. Clubs have a responsibility, in terms of providing and encouraging players. From feedback on the ground, a trend appears to be developing that if a player has a chance, even a sniff, of making a hurling panel then all football is out. Full stop.
Word has it that the minor football selectors are experiening problems like their under-21 counterparts trying to generate interest among players for the Kilkenny under-18 side. Players are opting out, some for ridiculous reasons.
People point to the County Board, and insisted it must do more. How much more? Football is given decent time on the games calendar, but clubs opt out, withdrawing from competitions at the drop of a hat.
The County Board is not Paul Kinsella, Ned Quinn, Barry Hickey and so on. They are the officers of the Executive, not the entire ’Board. The ’Board is made up by the representatives of every club in Kilkenny, so these are the people - from the clubs - who have to take charge of the game and work to get players to make themselves available.
People shouldn’t think the footballers in Kilkenny are treated as second class citizens. Far from it. In terms of playing gear, how they are treated and so on, things are much different than with the hurlers.
If the County Board - thereby the clubs - agree that their players will turn out and be available to the county, then they they will have to deliver. And if six, eight or 10 players from known clubs fail to turn out, then the County Board delegate from those clubs can be asked why.
This would be a sort of accountability system. It might nudge, arm twist or whatever, people to encourage players to make themselves available. That would be a starting point, nothing more.
At the moment no one takes responsibility when players fail to show. Certainly people have no problem turning down requests from the Football Board.
The Football Board is not without blame either. It could do its business an awful lot better, but that is a debate for another day.
The county will have to live for the rest of the season with the current problem, which won’t be easily overcome. It is no use telling the entity that is the ’Board, or the club representatives at a County Board meeting, that this and that must be done.
People, in every club, must be made face up to their responsibilities.
Otherwise the farce that was Ballyragget last Wednesday night will continue.
Louth simply let rip from the start. No one should blame them for that. They have serious intentions in this championship, and they went about their business in a business like fashion.
They were 1-9 to no score ahead after 10 minutes, and 1-21 to no score in front at half-time. They kept pounding away. Their last goal was scored in the 60th minute by Ben Rogan.
They might have been playing Kilkenny, but they were preparing for the next match against Longford. They can’t be blamed for that! A team that reached the Leinster minor semi-final two years ago has a serious goal in mind this season.
Scorers: Louth - Cathal Bellew (1-5); Brian Berrill (0-5); Barry Hamilton (1-2); Shane O’Hanoon, William Woods (0-4 each); Eamon O’Neill, Ruairi Moore, Ben Rogan (1-1 each); Derek Kierans (1-0); Eoin O’Connor, Peter Kirwan, Niall Devlin (0-3 each); Shane McMahon, Eoghan Duffy (0-1 each). Kilkenny - Brian Byrne (0-2, one free).
Kilkenny - George Smith (Danesfort), Donal Brennan (St Patrick’s), Niall Kenny (Lisdowney), Noel Callinan (Erin’s Own), David Wilson (Railyard), Kevin O’Brien (O’Loughlin Gaels), Kevein Delaney (St Patrick’s), Kieran Bergin (Kilmoganny), Evan Walsh (O’Loughlin Gaels), Luke Blanchfield (Thomastown), Brian Byrne (Muckalee), Aaron Fogarty (Lisdowney), Joe Fennelly (Mullinavat), David Kelly (St Patrick’s), Conor Foley (St Patricks).
Louth - J. Flanagan, C. Murray, D. Campbell, T. Hand, M. Neary, P. Reilly, E. Duffy, E. O’Connor, S. O’Hanlon, R. Moore, C. Bellew, P. Kirwan, B. Rogan, W. Woods, B. Berrill. Subs - N. Devlin for E. O’Connor; D. Kierans for Berrill; E. O’Neill for R. Moore; S. McMahon for T. Hand; B. Hamilton for Woods.
Referee - J. Hickey (Carlow).