Right, enough about Kilkenny’s championship challenge and their defeat by Waterford. It’s over and done with.
A dead duck. Deceased. Expired. Unworthy of further discussion.
Granted, you scarcely expected Myles Kavanagh to be the only Kilkenny man left in Championship 2017, but life is full of surprises, huh?
Chances are you didn’t have high hopes for the county in the first place, which was perfectly understandable. Chances are that you reckoned Kilkenny’s summer would be all about the minors and the under-21s, which was perfectly understandable too.
Viewing it that way, everything remains on the table. This could yet turn out to be a highly satisfactory year locally.
Remember, Kilkenny haven’t been All-Ireland under-21 champions since 2008, and this is the first time since 2009 that they’ve captured Leinster minor and under-21 titles in the same year.
Regardless of what fate befalls Pat O’Grady’s minors and Eddie Brennan’s under-21s from here on, then, the big picture is necessarily brighter than it has been for quite a while. Kilkenny have two cohorts of reasonably talented youngsters to move forward with.
Still, now that an inevitable and long delayed fallow season has arrived, there are questions to be asked. Questions of the kind of deep and searching nature that should really be asked when a county is on top of the world, but it’s only human that such questions aren’t asked then – and even if they were, very few people would care about the answers.
That the Black and Amber under-age production line has seized up is no cause for astonishment either. That too was inevitable. It couldn’t keep churning out talented youngsters.
The historians teach us that Ancient Rome fell not because of the barbarians outside the gates but as a result of the licentiousness and decline in moral standards inside the gates. Did Kilkenny grow fat on success?
No. There is no evidence of complacency among the County Board and its workings, meaning that the question is probably better framed thusly: did Kilkenny stay doing the same things on the basis that such practices were proven to work and therefore didn’t require updating?
In his Sunday Times column last week Henry Shefflin referred to Diarmuid O’Sullivan mentioning that the Cork under-age development squads have 40 sessions per year whereas their Kilkenny counterparts, according to Henry, have half that number. This is not cause for major concern.
Cork have put massive resources into under-age development in recent years, far more so than Kilkenny, simply because they had to: no All-Ireland minor title since 2001, no All-Ireland under-21 success since 1998.
But it’s not so long since the Kilkenny development squads were doing only eight sessions a year. Even 20 sessions is insufficient to develop youngsters satisfactorily.
While we’re at it, here’s a few more questions that can be asked.
It goes without saying that every youngster should be exposed to a much higher level of coaching and education with a county development squad than he is with his club. Is this the case?
Is the coaching with the county good enough? Equally if not more importantly, are the right people coaching the coaches?
How many coaches from Kilkenny are coaching outside the county, imbibing new ideas and making a name for themselves there, Thomas Mullally excepted?
With so many young hurlers in St Kieran’s and Kilkenny CBS, what about the lads who aren’t in those two schools?
Are they receiving the kind of quality coaching and regular competition that will improve them or are they being left to fall through the cracks? No less relevantly, what about the lads who are in those schools but who aren’t making the A teams?
Are they receiving the kind of quality coaching and regular competition that will improve them or are they – Kieran’s and the CBS being first and foremost in the results business - in danger of falling through the cracks too, given that they’re understandably getting less attention?
Who’s looking out for the late developers, whatever their place of education? Who has an eye to their physical and psychological development? Who’s tutoring them in decision making and team play? Do the development squad mentors need to be upskilled in those areas?
There may be easy answers to some of the questions posed above and there may not be. But let the discussion take place anyway.
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