Replays should be made a thing of the past
Again the extention of intercounty championship is taking toll on club competitions
Kilkenny and Tipperary will again have to go toe to toe after their All-Ireland hurling final replay at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crosbie.
Up to last weekend it couldn’t be said that it was a great hurling year. Sunday’s final was all and more you would have wanted in the final of the most important competition in the GAA’s calendar.
Today is Friday and there isn’t much that hasn’t been written or said about that spectacle of greatness and honest endeavour we witnessed. Today we might pick over some of the still smouldering embers of the week’s discussion regarding that same hurling exhibition.
First of all let’s drag out that old replay chestnut I tried to set alight during the summer. Surely it’s time to cater for the silent majority, aka the clubs and club players. Yes, I know it’s only two counties but there are a lot of players, mentors and families involved. Most of the players involved in the All-Ireland replay will be expected to play again the following weekend in the knockout stages of their county championship and probably again on the following weekends. There is a ripple effect that also affects the province and the competitions that are now due to start.
What about the discussion about finishing all the club competition in the calendar year? What chance has that of succeeding if the GAA persists with replays?
What about the anti-climax for the players last Sunday evening? What a nothing feeling after all the build up and all the hype to have to head into limbo for the next few weeks. What a disappointment for all the players families and friends who had tickets for the post-match banquet. How many other major sports don’t finish their finals on the day?
And, yes, I’m quite aware of the fact that the majority of people who attended the game or watched it on television are delighted to get the chance to possibly witness a repeat performance in a fortnight. Yes, I’m also aware that the capital’s hospitality industry are even more pleased. And I also know that a certain section (not a dig, just a fact) at GAA headquarters are happy with the extra finance.
However surely the larger consideration (aka the bigger picture) for the association should be the smoother running of every year’s top priority ie playing of games, within a well planned and structured master fixture list.
Any company would surely place huge value in doing its business efficiently and discommoding large numbers of people would surely be at variance with that. Further serious debate is necessary and a mindset change needs to be set in motion by those in positions of power.
The semi penalty was also back in the headlines. There’s no doubt but, in its present guise, it’s certainly not to the forwards advantage. This time last year it was a totally different story. Anyway that debate is at an advanced stage and I am hopeful that it will be properly resolved for next years competitions.
There are many questions and opinions out there regarding lessons to be learned from the drawn game.
Kilkenny have the advantage in their knowledge of how best to manage the three-week period between the games. All players and managements of teams at this level are very specific in their efforts to ensure that they peak for all the big games. You can be fairly sure that playing an All-Ireland final on September 27th wasn’t one of those targets.
It will be interesting to hear the opinions after the replay on Kilkenny not staying in Dublin for the post-match festivities after the drawn game and the fact that some of their players will be lining out with their clubs this weekend. If they win the next time out this will be interpreted as a victory for smart management. If they lose, however, Tipperary’s attendance of the post-match function and cancelling all their club games, will be the blueprint for the future if a similar situation arises which I hope it doesn’t.
On the field of play last Sunday Tipperary, in particular, showed that there’s no limit to what can be achieved when nobody cares who gets the plaudits. Can they repeat that intensity, efficiency and highly impressive team work? Time will tell.
Kilkenny, of course, have to match and better their performance. They have more experience all round and will again bring their never say die attitude to the Croke Park table but will they close down the space and smother the life out of the high scoring quicksilver Tipperary forwards? Time will tell.
Meanwhile, the intercounty hurling year at under-21 offers Clare the chance to win a three in a row for the first time in their history. The county, presently, has at its disposal a number of quality hurlers.
Wexford have nothing to lose. They have been efficient and determined in all their games. Jim McGuinness’s recent quote about always believing his team can win any game springs to mind and has relevance for them.
If Wexford are to have a realistic chance their backs as a unit will have to give the performances of a lifetime. Otherwise they’ll struggle.