IT WAS the lowest in many low days for football in Kilkenny, and the time has most definitely come for the county to have a root and branch review of everything to do with the big ball game, writes John Knox.
Last night’s 6-34 to 0-2 thrashing by Louth, admittedly a good Louth team, in the Leinster under-21 football championship was the worst suffered by the county in as long as anyone at the game could recall. The winners, who face Longford in the next round, set a blistering pace from the off and they didn’t stop scoring goals until the 60th minute when Ben Rogan hit the net.
The winners tried to make the best use possible of the match, playing a high tempo, neat passing game. They were obviously looking to tests ahead. This led to the sad losers being gunned down when caught in the line of fire.
Louth were eveything Kilkenny weren’t, organised, professional, interested.
Twenty minutes before the game was due to start Kilkenny team officials were making frantic ’phone calls trying to drag a team together. They got 15 players, but they hadn’t any subs.
The group, according to officials, didn’t have one training session. Obviously no one had noted Roy Keane’s famous warning about sport: “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”
The County Board and Football Board can’t let this situation pass without some meaningful review. Blaming players for not turning up - there were five changes from the listed team - was the common theme in Ballyragget on Wednesday night. But ‘not turning up’ for what? The group/panel had never trained.
What were the players being asked to commit to? A phantom panel? Real sports people commit to something more meaningful.
The players who did eventually make up the team did Kilkenny a favour, because the county fielded at least. These players should be thanked. However, the Football Board, team management and County Board have questions to answer about the whole sad affair.
Louth didn’t take long to lay the path to be travelled. During the opening 10 minutes they ran up a lead of 1-8 to no score with William Woods, Brian Betrill, Shane O’Hanlon, Peter Kirwan and Cathal Bellew all scoring. The goal was put away from close range in the seventh minute by Ruairi Moore after a lightning fast move involving passes between Kirwan and Bellew in the build-up.
On the winners rolled. At half-time they led by 1-21 to no scoe. But for three good save by Kilkenny goalie, George Smith, the difference could have been even worse.
Kilkenny won a bit of possession during the early stages of the second half when Brian Byrne kicked a point. Within a minute normal servie was resumed. Louth poured forward in wave after wave of attack until the finish. Remarkably, all their scores were from play.
Scorers: Louth - C. Bellew (1-5); B. Berrill (0-5); B. Hamilton (1-2); S. O’Hanoon, W. Woods (0-4 each); E. O’Neill, R. Moore, B. Rogan (1-1 each); D. Kierans (1-0); E. O’Connor, P. Kirwan, N. Devlin (0-3 each); S. McMahon, E. Duffy (0-1 each). Kilkenny - B. Byrne (0-2, one free).
Kilkenny - G. Smith, D. Brennan, N. Kenny, N. Callinan, D. Wilson, K. O’Brien, K. Delaney, K. Bergin, E. Walsh, L. Blanchfield, B. Byrne, A. Fogarty, J. Fennelly, D. Kelly, C. Foley.
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).