The Backdoor: Walsh Park delay may prove a blessing

In two decades there’s no knowing where the hurlers of the north-west may be playing

Blessing in disguise

Disappointment was the prevalent feeling at last week's Waterford county board meeting after delegates were told that the renovation of Walsh Park, which was due to commence after this year's Munster championship, has been delayed.

While funding from the GAA, through the Munster and Central councils, has been secured the county is still waiting on State funding, according to the Waterford News and Star, which will only be provided on the condition that no work begins prior to its approval.

The county remains in limbo.

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But maybe it can be a blessing in disguise for the Déise; after all, the GAA are hardly world standard-bearers when it comes to rushing through stadium redevelopments without hiccups. Waterford need only to look over the wall and into their neighbours’ patch to see a shining example of everything that could go wrong with these projects.

After all the controversy surrounding Páirc Ui Chaoimh, Cork are left with a stadium more suited a location along the Mediterranean coast rather than the inclement banks of the Lee, but don’t for a minute think this is a ‘Cork thing’.

For the GAA are the purveyors of hastily-built stadia showing little value for money, the country being pockmarked with poor investments where capacity is king and designs are shoddy.

Waterford can only learn from where others have been, to put it mildly, a little clueless.

The project is currently priced at €7 million, which seems reasonable in comparison to other high-profile projects, though the artist’s impression of the project is a little underwhelming, resembling something along the lines of a not-so-rundown Dalymount Park.

This can be an opportunity for Waterford to look abroad, gather expertise and break the cycle of impulsiveness that can be observed nationwide. Walsh Park can be a modest success, an example for others to follow, if only approached with a hint of prudence.

By The Numbers: 21 - 21% – The cumulative attendance at this year's four provincial football finals (112,291) was 21 per cent lower than the cumulative attendance at the same four finals five years ago (142,338).

New hurling strongholds

Galway may have exited the championship stage last weekend, but Connacht still had a say in this summer of hurling. Because the oft-forgotten minnows of Sligo and Leitrim hit the road for Drumcondra on Saturday in the hope of sealing their own 2019 destinies.

Contrary to what may be popular belief, the hurlers of the north-west aren’t some troglodytes, let loose with cudgels in hand after being pulled from their caves to make up the numbers. Away from the spotlight of premier league hurling, they’re willing to play. And they can play.

Sligo, for example, capped off a marvellous 12 months on Saturday afternoon, claiming the Nicky Rackard Cup a year after winning the Lory Meagher title and only months after claiming the league’s Division 3B crown. Next year, they’ll settle into the Christy Ring competition with none other than Offaly for company. A meteoric rise meets a cascading decline.

Meanwhile, not wanting a title to leave the province, Leitrimclaimed the Lory Meagher Cup to make this little corner of Connacht the most successful hurling patch in the country to date this year.

The Shannonsiders don’t get too many days in Croke Park, no mind triumphant ones, so they’ll cherish this. And so they should.

One can only hope the obvious hard work continues in these former hurling backwaters, and in two decades time there’s no knowing where they could end up. Just ask Offaly.

What they said: "Am I dreaming or am I awake? Finally we've got up the steps of the Hogan, it's absolutely unbelievable for Leitrim hurling." – Leitrim captain Declan Molloy begins a memorable victory speech after lifting the Lory Meagher Cup.

Cloning job

Since the 1990s, Irish football fans have been dreaming for a "team of Gary Breens. " Unfortunately the slow nature of scientific advancement, along with that pesky issue of ethics, has denied them their wishes, but somewhere deep within the rough terrain of Dungloe Declan Bonner has defied the world of science.

For the Donegal manager has mastered cloning, producing a team of Ryan McHughs that has made his native county the main objectors to Dublin’s procession towards history.

The game has evolved to the point where fitness trumps skill, where talent is no longer paramount hence why Diarmuid Connolly is so dispensable in the capital. Jim Gavin has hastened the evolution.

On yesterday’s showing in Clones, Donegal are now best placed to compete with the reigning champions, having replicated the hard-running work ethic exhibited by McHugh in 2014 right throughout the side.

In full flow, they’re unstoppable. Ceaseless exuberance.

As the hour mark approached yesterday, the Donegal reaction was going to prove telling. They had taken their siesta. Cavan were coming, the yellow and green jerseys within sight. Then, Jamie Brennan hit the throttle and with all the energy of a man who had just entered the fray, sparks projecting from his heels, he rattled the net. We've this sort of thing before eh?