Inter-county woes belie active club scene

I THOUGHT long and hard about whether I should pen another article on Kilkenny football given the difficult week which the county has experienced.

I THOUGHT long and hard about whether I should pen another article on Kilkenny football given the difficult week which the county has experienced.

A trio of heavy defeats against Fermanagh (senior), Louth (under-21) and Laois (minor) once again emphasised the enormous gulf in class between Kilkenny and the rest of the Gaelic football world.

The under-21 game, in particular, created significant media interest, but unfortunately such interest usually arrives on the back of a heavy defeat. It is a futile exercise discussing the under-21 game other than to thank the players and team officials who turned up in Ballyragget.

Once the media started discussing that game, many pundits proffered opinions with little knowledge of the facts. County Board secretary, Ned Quinn gave a robust defence of Kilkenny’s position on Saturday afternoon on RTE radio 1.

He was honest in his assertion that the county was embarrassed with the outcome of the Louth game, but he was perfectly correct to challenge one of the other contributors on his knowledge of Kilkenny football. Oh how so many pundits see everything in such black and white terms!

Credit to County Board

The club scene within Kilkenny is far from ideal, but credit must be given to the County Board for the manner in which it has structured a range of football league ties over the first four months of the year.

I was also asked to comment last week on Kilkenny’s footballing fortunes on another radio station. Before I went on air I thought it appropriate to review the football fixtures programmes on the County Board website in advance.

Up to late last week a staggering 101 league games were played at senior, intermediate, junior, minor and under-14 levels (the under-16 league has not yet commenced).

That’s an impressive array of games and deserves to be acknowledged at a time when Gaelic football in the county is the butt of so much ill-informed comment.

Unfortunately there is a negative side which cannot be ignored. Last year the County Board rightly chastised a number of clubs for giving walk-overs, but that warning appears to have gone unheeded. Since the beginning of this year clubs have conceded 44 walks-overs.

That is unacceptable and the clubs involved must be made accountable. Why do they go to the bother of affiliating (and paying costly insurance) when they end up unable to field teams?

The easy solution is to opt out of all inter-county competitions, but that would be a cop-out by a proud GAA county. County Board officers have tried and tried valiantly to improve the current plight of Kilkenny football. Progress, though, cannot be made by those officers alone.

Apathy from clubs

Notwithstanding the impressive number of club football games played annually in Kilkenny (far more it must be said than the number of hurling games played in many counties), the apathy from clubs and many players is at the core of Kilkenny’s footballing plight.

Improving Kilkenny’s football fortunes will not happen unless there is a change of attitude from clubs and everyone involved with clubs. When events like those of last week hit the headlines, the spotlight immediately falls on the County Board officers.

Ultimately, though, it is the clubs and their players who will decide where Kilkenny football goes from here. The county officers are not miracle workers, but maybe with a little help from the wider GAA fraternity in the county something like last week’s under-21 fiasco can be avoided in the future.