Training ban hitting weaker counties
DISAPPOINTMENT FOR Mick Hagan and the fixtures people as they were within sight of the winning post with their programme of matches.
Just one hitch up in Roundwood on Saturday night may prevent them from completing their programme within the calendar year.
It was the semi-final of the Dunne Cup between Kiltegan and Newtown and the fact that the match did not go ahead will probably mean that the final, scheduled for this coming weekend will not now go ahead.
But that’s life – the best laid plans of mice and men.
MICKO AND THE TRAINING BAN!
Around this time a year ago Mick O’Dwyer was pencilling the 18th of May in his diary and advising everyone else to do the same. That was the day Wicklow were due to play Kildare in the SFC in Croke Park – which was the day that would define our year.
No matter what happened afterwards, in O’Byrne Cup, in the League or anywhere else Micko kept on saying it is the 18th of May that counts.
This year he is already writing in May the 24th as the day that will count most in 2009.
That is the day that Wicklow will take on Longford in the first round of the Leinster Championship in O’Moore Park, Portlaoise.
Alright the setting may lack the glamour of ‘Croker’ and the opposition may not whet the appetite in the same way that another clash with our near neighbours did a year ago but you can bet that Micko will be leaving no stone unturned to be ready for another big showdown.
Not for the first time the great Kerryman is less than happy with the ultimatum that has come from Croke Park on training, and this time he is not alone in his protests.
From what we are being told this ultimatum on training is seen to be hitting the weaker counties the hardest and already a number of team managers are protesting long and loud.
In fact Carlow hurling manager Jim Greene resigned as a result of this ruling.
He makes the point, a very valid one, that Carlow are stepping up to the top division this year after winning the Christy Ring Cup and are due to play Offaly in their first match early in February. According to the Waterford man there is no way he could have a team properly prepared for such an important match in the space of a few weeks.
A number of other managers from the lesser counties have also made their protests, perhaps not as forceful, but along the same lines – but will they be listened to? Not a chance.
The strong counties will not be hit in the same way, and for a very simple reason.
In counties like Kerry, Dublin, Tyrone or Armagh the competition for places on the team is such that every player with ambitions to wear the jersey will make damned sure that he has fitness levels well under way before he is called for his first official training session which is sure to be in the early days of January.
He will achieve that level of fitness by working alone in his own club gym or in one of the fitness and leisure centres that now dot the landscape.
What is all the new restrictions on what a team manager or trainer can, or cannot do about anyway? Burn-out they tell us is the main reason but many suspect that it may have more to do with the third level college student, and his availability to his college team manager during the winter months.
Lets look at the ‘ burn-out’ factor. The player form the weak county will, on average finish his provincial champion campaign perhaps as early as May. He is than guaranteed one more match – be it in the qualifiers or the Murphy Cup.
His next match with the county team will not be until the following January. Alright he will get a few matches with his club, the number will depend on how the championship is run in his own county and on how long his club survives. Burn-out how are you – he is more likely to suffer from ring rust.
Recently we got a look at a schedule of training and matches from one of the top colleges. According to this document players will be out five nights, or days a week, either training or playing matches – and no restrictions that we know of. Another player we met told us that in one week he had togged out on six days running in one code or another with his college teams. Would that be where the ‘burn-out’ factor clicks in?
Getting back to the Wicklow situation Mick O’Dwyer and his Senior team may be the big loser but what about Phillip McGillycuddy and his U-21 squad?
From what we are told they are allowed to hold two trial matches in the ‘closed season’ but no training. That team is out in the championship in February which will give Phillip and his selectors Mick O’Toole and Conan Daye about five weeks to prepare for the action. And remember this Championship in on a straight knockout system so if they lost their first match their year is OVER.
What is likely to happen is this. As soon as the bells stop ringing to welcome in the new year everyone will go into overdrive. Micko, if I know him, will probably sit into his car shortly after midnight in Waterville and head North to be ready for training shortly after the dawn of day. He will be whipping the lard out of his Senior players at one venue while Phillip will be down the road in another club trying to make up for lost time with his U-21s.
At the same time the college competitions will also be hotting up and they will be putting on the pressure on their players.
The U-21 matches will run mainly on the Saturday and the National League matches on the Sunday. Is that the road we should be going to cure this ‘burn-out’ problem?
Incidentally that Under-21 match will be away to Longford on the 8th of February.
The Annacurra Club, their supporters and friends gath- ered in the ‘Saltee’ Lounge in the village on Saturday night to celebrate a great honour bestowed on one of their leading members recently.
Kathleen McAlister has been a pillar of the club for many years and has held almost every position in the club at one time or another down the years.
This year she received a ‘person of the year’ award and the club were not going to let the occasion go unnoticed.
Club President Agnes Byrne made a presentation to Kathleen to mark the occasion and in a brief address thanked everyone for coming and said that it was a well deserved award. Kathleen had devoted her life to working for the club and the community and was still their most active member.
This was not just an honour for Kathleen but for the club and the village. ‘We are all extremely proud of what you have achieved’, she said, and on behalf of the club and the community I congratulate you.
County G.A.A. President Peter Keogh offered the Ccngratulations of the County Board and of all Gaels in the county.
This was a well deserved award, and long overdue. Kathleen has not confined her work to the Annacurra club but has promoted the game of camogie everywhere and in every way she could. Her work with schools teams in her own area and in Arklow is well known.
She has also served the county in many ways down the years. We in the G.A.A. are also very proud of the honour bestowed on you this year.
BLESSINGTON JUVENILES CELEBRATE
The Blessington Juvenile G.A.A. Club held their presentation function in the function room of St. Mark’s Community College on Wednesday.
Over 170 boys and girls, their parents and supporters packed the hall for what was a most impressive occasion.
The Blessington club now play hurling as well as football and everyone present had either a medal or certificate to receive on the night.
Man power, the problem we hear about everywhere we go appears to be no trouble in this club with every team from under eights up having their own set of mentors.
Club Chairman Martin Shannon was master of ceremonies for the night and welcomed the guests which included the G.A.A. Ambassador Leighton Glynn, Peter Keogh, Pat Mitchell and Jimmy Birchall.
He thanked everyone for coming and all managers, coaches and mentors who help to make the year a success. Leighton Glynn made the presentations and was assisted by three of Blessington’s own county players Mick McLoughlin, Anthony McLoughlin and Gavin Murray. A special presentation was made to Tom Hennessy for his work with juvenile teams down the years.
Each manager then introduced his own panel of players to be presented with there awards.
John Walsh introduced the U-8 team who received Go Games medals and certificates; the U-10 mentors Stephen McManus and Noel Gilroy had three separate awards for their team as well as Go Games medals and Baltinglass tournament medals.
Player of the year was Adam Boland; Most Improved Player – Seán McGarr; Most Dedicated Player – Shauna Byrne.
The U-12 mentors were Lorcan McMahon, Paddy O’Connor, Jonathan Daniels, Dessie and Annmarie Nolan.
This team received runnersup medals for the South West and also the Baltinglass Tournament medals.
This group were also voted ‘Team of the Year’ and manager Lorcan McMahon wished the three girls on the team – Triona Hennessy, Lauren Thomas and Katie Charles all the best as they moved on to ladies’ football
U-14 Manager - Alan Siney; Player Of the Year - Kyle Geraghty; Most Improved Player – James Kearns; Most Dedicated Player – Luke McCormack.
U-16 Manager - Gerry Devlin. Player of the Year – Shane Fisher and he received the Pat Fanning Memorial Cup; Most Improved Player – Dean McGarr; Most Dedicated Player – Stephen Bohan.
The juvenile hurlers also received Go Games medals and their mentors were John Walsh; Ciarán Murphy, Derek Brogan and Michael Phelan.
Arrangements were in the capable hands of secretary Lisa Charles while the ladies committee served tea and refreshments to all present.
THE CHRISTY RING ALL STARS
Jonathan O’Neill, now surely one of the all-time greats of Wicklow hurling capped what was probably his greatest year on the playing fields when he was selected on the team of Christy Ring All Stars.
Jonathan is the first Glenealy man to take this award and is following in the footsteps of two Carnew men – Joe Murphy who was selected in 2005 and 2006 and Don Hyland who took the award in 2007.
Jonathan had a great year for club and county. John Mitchell made him captain of the Wicklow team at the start of the year. He threw himself into the job, hook, line and sinker, led by example on the field and never missed a single match for the year.
He was also Wicklow’s top scorer for the year. In the Christy Ring Cup he scored 128 in three games which put him in third place behind Brendan Murtagh and Adrian Freeman in the national charts but both of the others had played more matches.
In the National Hurling League he scored 1-35 in five matches while in the Kehoe Cup, midfielder Jonathan scored 0-21. An overall total of 2-84 in eleven matches.
Jonathan was also the main reason why Glenealy retained their SHC crown.
A remarkable year for a truly remarkable hurling artist
Jackie Napier launched his Yearbook in Aughrim on Monday night. 184 pages packed with all the facts and figures of the year, colour pictures of all the big events and lots of other interesting items and stories A ‘must’ for every G.A.A. household; a great stocking filler and great value at a tenner.
GET WELL WISHES
Get well wishes this week to the many G.A.A. people ill in hospital at present. They include John O’Brien from Baltinglass; Niall Moore, President of the Stratford/Grangecon club; Pat ‘Horse’ Doyle, Carnew and many more.
BORD NA NOG
New board chairman Damien Byrne holds his first board meeting tonight (Wednesday) in Aughrim. Fixtures Secretary Martin Barnes will be presenting his fixtures plan for the new year at this meeting.
Agnes Byrne, Kathleen McAllister, with the People of the Year award, and Peter Keogh in The Saltee, Annacurra.