Is hurl­ing suf­fer­ing from ne­glect by the Wicklow county board?

Bray People - - SPORT - The Michael Neary view

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.

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