The best of luck against Carlow, lads

Kilkenny minor hurling and football teams have been to the fore recently and it is most unusual to be writing about both in the one article, writes Nickey Brennan.

Kilkenny minor hurling and football teams have been to the fore recently and it is most unusual to be writing about both in the one article, writes Nickey Brennan.

Kilkenny’s defeat by Offaly in the Leinster football championship would have been no surprise, but the victory margin will cast serious doubts on Kilkenny’s future in the competition. It was no fault of the mentors or the players that Kilkenny was out-classed.

For weeks leading up to the game clubs were asked to identify players for inclusion in the football squad. Training was organised on a regular basis so clearly those in charge could only work with the players at their disposal. The result against Offaly was a disappointment and an embarrassment.

The question now is where Kilkenny stands with inter-county minor football? Different individuals have tried to bring respectability to athe county. It is hard to blame them if they are frustrated.

The reality is that there is little or no support here for Gaelic football. The game has little relevance to most people.

There is no prospect of Kilkenny returning to adult inter-county league or championship football action in the foreseeable future. The same scenario must surely now apply to the minor grade.

It gives me no pleasure to make that statement, but reality must be faced. I feel sorry for those at County Board and Bord-na-nÓg levels who have tried hard to achieve respectability for Gaelic football.

One week after that minor football result we had an even more disappointing minor hurling result. Losing to Dublin at under-18 level can no longer be considered a surprise. The manner of the defeat, particularly the miserable three points scored by the home side, was the big talking point.

With two Kilkenny schools contesting the All-Ireland colleges final, expectations were high that this year’s minor squad could make a major impact in the championship. That may yet happen, but a big improvement will be necessary to restore confidence in the side which starts against Carlow on Saturday.

Carlow cannot be taken for granted. They produced an impressive high-scoring display when defeating Kildare.

Despite the poor display against Dublin, I have sympathy with the team mentors in a number of respects. I suspect that they had little time to work with the full squad due to the involvement of so many with school teams.

Many panel members played with St Kieran’s College or Kilkenny CBS and both schools had heavy commitments over the past couple of months. These young men were focused on achieving success for their school and it was probably difficult to think of the upcoming inter-county campaign.

Also, every member of the minor panel had club commitments over the past couple of months. Aside from their obvious involvement at minor level, I suspect that every one of them was also involved with at least one adult club team.

Throw in a couple of club training sessions and I wonder how many days rest these young men actually got in recent weeks. And lest we forget, many are also in the throes of preparing for their Leaving Certificate examination, the result of which can shape the rest of their lives.

It is understandable that manager, Pat Hoban and his mentors would expect full co-operation from all players as they approached another championship campaign. However, while we all take pride in the success of the Kilkenny schools, there can sometimes be a price to pay.

That price may have been the disappointing display against Dublin. Thankfully there is a second chance. I expect Kilkenny to overcome Carlow and reach the Leinster semi-final.

There is a possible down-side to Kilkenny’s second level schools having long championship campaigns. The players involved get more exposure from the county selectors and, maybe, that just might sometimes be to the detriment of other players. I have no quibble with the team selected to face Dublin.

I have no doubt the selectors picked what they thought was the best team. If the players are under the microscope against Carlow, so too are the selectors. Good luck to all!