Is hurling suffering from neglect by the Wicklow county board?
EXCITING TIMES ahead in the Senior football championship now that we have an open draw in 2013.
Hopefully the draw will throw up some interesting games from the offset. With favourable draws some of the so called weaker clubs could now have a chance to advance to the closing stages of the championship which would greatly improve teams and their confidence.
On the downside the championship now won't start until July.
Everyone is in agreement that the Senior hurling championship is also in need of a serious facelift. The fact that there are only seven or eight teams participating at Senior level brings its own difficulties.
It's ridiculous that, with so few teams participating, the final of this competition is played so late in the year.
In fact last year's final had to be played a week after the semi-finals in order for the winners to compete in the Leinster Club Championship. Is this pure neglect from the County Board?
Also does this highlight their undoubted preference for football in the county? Hopefully now, with less football championship games on the agenda, there should be no reason not to play the hurling final earlier.
I think for hurling to progress in the county we need to work hard at maintaining a decent level within the current eight Senior clubs.
In the future this may lead to the amalgamation of some of the smaller clubs with some of the Senior clubs.
If funding and coaching expertise is available it should be directed at these eight teams. The view of many is that it's unhealthy for the game if Glenealy and Carnew continue to meet in finals.
Neither of these clubs should apologise for the tremendous work and effort they put into their respective teams. It is up to the six remaining clubs to reach the required level.
Thankfully, from a hurling perspective, last year we had some clubs who closed the gap considerably and hopefully this improvement will continue.
With a lot of maturity currently within both the Glenealy and Carnew squads it's inevitable that opportunities will arise for other clubs to come to the fore. It will be interesting to see which of the emerging clubs will break the current dominance.
In terms of the number of games available to club hurlers within the county this has improved considerably with the introduction of the Leinster Club League.
This league provides clubs an opportunity to play different teams from outside the county.
With three divisions available teams can play clubs of a similar or higher standard and if successful and qualify from their group can play up to five games.
When teams exit the Leinster League, which could be in early April, they need an additional programme of games to cover the period from early April to the end of the Christy Ring in June.
I would like to see the commencement of a competition consisting of two groups of four teams (all without county players). Each team would play a match on the three weekends of the Christy Ring games with the top team in each group qualifying to play each other in a final.
The other teams that finish second, third and fourth in their group could play each other in say a 'B' or a Shield final. This format would mean a definite start and finish date.
Excellent and prestigious cups now lying idle such as the Salley Cup and the Billy Byrne Cup could be revitalised. Wouldn't it also be great to see hurling games played at the right time of the year and played back on local club pitches.
With regard to the Senior hurling championship itself, it's imperative that the eight teams play each other with the top four qualifying for the semi-final.
If all teams involved are fighting for the four qualifying places, unlike last year, it will make for a more thrilling competition.
If teams don't qualify in the football championship they then participate in the Keating Cup and similarly in hurling the bottom four teams should realistically enter into a Senior 'B' championship.
Status should be attached to each championship group game with a proviso that Intermediate or re-graded players be permitted to play one or two games without losing their current status.
This would allow for games to proceed when full squads are not available or when dual players are not released.
Allowing these players to play one or two group games would enable them to return to their original grade (if they were only helping out covering holidays or work commitments) thus continuing to receive game time.
Players who start in the semi-final would automatically be deemed Senior and could not return to a lower grade even if they had only played one Senior group game.
Alternatively, an option which was recently proposed by a Kiltegan delegate, was to have two groups of four with the top two teams reaching the semi-final and an open draw for the semi-final pairings.
I would not be in favour of this proposal as it could possibly guarantee a county hurler only three games with his own club. It could also lead to huge disparity in the groupings and most importantly it would considerably reduce the number of games at a time when we need to increase the amount of club hurling played within the county.
Problems could also arise if any of the current teams ceased playing at Senior level.
I'm hoping the rumour that U-14 club hurling is changing to 11-a-side is not true. This would be an extremely backward step for the development of the game in Wicklow.
Whatever about some of the smaller clubs playing 11-a-side due to their limited numbers the current six or so strong clubs need to keep playing 15-a-side games so that their numbers don't decline and that the hard work clubs have put in to developing these teams to date is not wasted.