Meyler keeping faith with Carlow hurlers
Veteran boss still harbours hopes for the county as they begin their championship campaign against London
Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with Shane Finnegan at Stormont yesterday .
Twenty years ago next week John Meyler took charge of one of the biggest hurling shocks of all time. A Wexford native and long settled in Cork, he was manager of the Kerry hurlers when they recorded their only senior championship success of the past 87 years, beating Waterford by a goal in the Munster championship.
Tomorrow in Dr Cullen Park, he will send out Carlow for their Leinster senior championship opener against London. To date it has been a respectable if frustrating year for the team, who lost the Division One B relegation play-off to Antrim.
“We worked hard and were very competitive, if not successful,” he says. “Did we deserve to stay up? On the basis of competitiveness, yes; on the basis of results, no, but if we were able to have another crack at it next year we’d have learned from the experience.”
He sees parallels with his Kerry years in the 1990s in what Carlow are going through. “We beat Waterford in ’93 and got to a league quarter-final. We were in Division One and beat Clare in Tralee when they were All-Ireland champions but we were relegated at the end of the year.
“I remember saying to Seán Kelly (former GAA president, then Kerry chair), it would be great if they could leave us there for another year so that we could progress a bit more.
“If Carlow could play in 1B again next year we’d be able to take on Limerick and Wexford in Dr Cullen Park. We only lost by three in Limerick and people might say it was February hurling but we were gutted afterwards.”
Next year the GAA will begin to trim the number of counties at MacCarthy Cup level. Meyler says there could be a future in the second-tier Christy Ring Cup if all of the counties like Carlow, Westmeath, Kerry and Laois took part.
“I said it when Kerry won in 2005 (during his second spell in charge) the winners should be allowed enter the senior qualifiers and have at least one game and be allowed to enter the MacCarthy Cup the following year. There has to be an incentive.”
He still believes there should continue to be promotion and relegation between the Ring and MacCarthy Cups. Ironically his team’s opponents tomorrow are London, the Ring Cup holders, who have exercised their right to compete in this year’s MacCarthy Cup.
Antrim and Laois meet in the other Leinster first-round match and former Carlow manager Kevin Ryan, now in charge of Antrim, leaves a vacancy at left-corner forward. Laois’s injury concerns Zane Keenan and Tommy Fitzgerald are named in the starting line-up.
l Tomorrow sees the staging of Life Cycle, the charity bike ride to raise awareness of the need for organ donation. Spearheaded by RTÉ pundit Joe Brolly (who donated a kidney to his friend Shane Finnegan last autumn), the cycle begins and ends at Harlequins rugby club in Belfast.
The event will be led off by Northern Ireland’s first minister Peter Robinson and started by his deputy, Martin McGuinness, and will feature well-known sportsmen, including former professional cyclist and journalist Paul Kimmage.
Brolly said: “We have British and Irish Lions rugby players Tommy Bowe and Trevor Ringland and the McEntee twins (John and Tony) and Stevie McDonnell (Armagh All-Ireland medallists).
ANTRIM (SHC v Laois): R McGarry; B McFall, A Graffin, M McFadden; C McKinley N McAuley J McGreevey; M Donnelly T McCloskey; P Shiels, N McManus, E McCloskey; S McNaughton, C Carson, AN Other.
LAOIS (SHC): E Reilly; B Stapleton, B Campion, JA Delaney; C Healy, M Whelan, G Burke; J Fitzpatrick, J Walsh; S Maher, Z Keenan, W Hyland; J Brophy, T Fitzgerald, B Dunne.
CARLOW (SHC v London): F Foley; A Corcoran, E Nolan, HP O’Byrne; D Byrne, D English, J O’Hara; R Coady, J Kavanagh; E Coady (capt.), S Kavanagh, S Murphy; JM Nolan, M Kavanagh, P Coady. Subs: B Treacy, A Gaule, M Brennan, J Corcoran, P Shaw, D Roberts, C Doyle, D Galway, C McCabe, C Wall, E Byrne.