Hurlers will al­ways be walked on un­less our rep­re­sen­ta­tives act

Bray People - - SPORT - The Michael Neary view

THE DUST has now set­tled on the hurlers' great win in the Di­vi­sion 2B Hurl­ing League fi­nal.

How­ever, as I sat in a sparsely filled stand in Na­van last Satur­day week, I thought to my­self that surely these play­ers de­serve more.

Now don't get me wrong the re­sult of the game was the most im­por­tant in­gre­di­ent of the day and thank­fully that went Wick­low's way.

The pro­mo­tion, venue, time, day and cov­er­age of the fi­nal could all have been con­sid­er­ably im­proved. I would love to see what kind of budget the GAA spent on the pro­mo­tion of this fi­nal. Ob­vi­ously man­age­ment and play­ers have to fo­cus on the game. How­ever, other agents of the As­so­ci­a­tion have to ask them­selves are they do­ing their best to pro­mote our county teams and recog­nis­ing the hard work and sac­ri­fices of the play­ers or are they just go­ing through the mo­tions and ac­cept­ing sec­ond best to the detri­ment of the game.

The en­hanced pro­file that the game of hurl­ing re­ceives from both lo­cal and na­tional me­dia out­lets would gen­er­ate greater in­ter­est and in turn en­tice larger num­bers to play hurl­ing in Wick­low, some­thing that is ob­vi­ously needed.

Play­ing a fi­nal on a Satur­day af­ter­noon out­side of Wick­low im­me­di­ately puts sup­port­ers and play­ers un­der pres­sure for many rea­sons none more so than work re­lated is­sues.

I know that the tim­ing and lo­ca­tion of the game had a bear­ing on the num­ber at­tend­ing and in fact many of those at­tend­ing ar­rived late to the venue. There were also lo­cal fix­tures on in Wick­low that day and, more sur­pris­ingly, a Hurl­ing Coach­ing Con­fer­ence was be­ing held in Bal­li­nakill. To fa­cil­i­tate people who were not in a po­si­tion to at­tend the game a live ra­dio broad­cast of the game would have been a most wel­come ad­di­tion. Af­ter all it was a na­tional fi­nal.

I think it's com­mend­able that the foot­ball fi­nals in Di­vi­sions 1, 2, 3 and 4 are all played in Croke Park. Only two years ago we had the great oc­ca­sion when Wick­low de­feated Fer­managh in the Di­vi­sion 4 fi­nal in Cro­ker. If I re­call cor­rectly the game was also shown live on TV. One couldn't ask for bet­ter pro­mo­tion of a game.

Why then are the lower di­vi­sion hurl­ing fi­nals not af­forded the same re­spect? It would be a huge bonus for the teams that qual­ify for these league fi­nals to play, even as a cur­tain raiser to the Di­vi­sion 1 hurl­ing quar­ter, semi or, God for­bid, the fi­nal.

I don't in­tend any dis­re­spect to ei­ther Markievicz Park in Sligo or Páirc Tail­teann in Na­van where the Di­vi­sion 2B and 3 hurl­ing fi­nals were played but there is a great buzz for play­ers and sup­port­ers to share a “real hurl­ing” venue with the big hit­ters. Play­ing in such an en­vi­ron­ment can only in­spire play­ers and young sup­port­ers on to greater achieve­ments.

Wick­low and the other coun­ties that are cur­rently ply­ing their trade in the lower hurl­ing di­vi­sions need to unify them­selves and seek fair play in the over­all run­ning of com­pe­ti­tions.

The of­fi­cials of these weaker coun­ties need to be stronger and more volatile when fight­ing their cause as, col­lec­tively, they should be ca­pa­ble of im­prov­ing their coun­ties lot if they work as a uni­fied group.

This pat­tern of the GAA play­ing im­por­tant games in un­suit­able venues for weaker coun­ties is cer­tainly noth­ing new.

I re­mem­ber a few years ago Car­low and West­meath were fixed to play a Christy Ring fi­nal at 7.30pm in Croke Park on a Fri­day evening. When both coun­ties ob­jected they were then made play it in Tul­lam­ore on a Satur­day.

I re­call at the time talk­ing to an of­fi­cial in Croke park who was hor­ri­fied by both coun­ties' at­ti­tudes and even said “sure didn't they play last year's fi­nal in Croke Park and that should have been enough for them”.

Could you imag­ine say­ing that to Kilkenny or Dublin, “you played last year's fi­nal in Croke Park now that's enough for you”.

Wick­low hurlers also had to play an All-Ire­land 'B' fi­nal in 2003 at 7pm on a Satur­day night in Tul­lam­ore which at the time dis­ap­pointed many but, as usual, we just put up with it.

With the ar­rival of Sky on the scene hope­fully all chan­nels in­clud­ing TG4 and RTE will im­prove their cov­er­age of the game in the lower di­vi­sions. Nei­ther of the home chan­nels for a num­ber of years has shown any hurl­ing games in­volv­ing teams out­side of Di­vi­sion 1, not even limited high­lights of any of the fi­nals. Not good enough in my opin­ion. In fact, RTE some­times don't even give the re­sults of Di­vi­sion 2 hurl­ing games on their main evening news.

When the GAA in­tro­duced the Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cups they promised to pro­mote them as best as pos­si­ble. This cer­tainly hasn't hap­pened so far.

Ad­mit­tedly the fi­nals are all played in Croke Park, how­ever, the cov­er­age given and the pro­mo­tion of these games is vir­tu­ally nil.

Even the man­ner in which the All Stars are selected leaves a lot to be de­sired. Could these fi­nals not be played be­fore im­por­tant games where some at­mos­phere could be gen­er­ated in such a won­der­ful sta­dium?

Un­less our rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Wick­low high­light these mat­ters in a com­pelling man­ner the hurlers will al­ways be walked on.

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