There’s something of a calm before the storm on the hurling front at the moment as we bide our time in anticipation of June 9 and that date with Limerick.
The county panel has been pruned back to thirty-one as they build up to defend a Munster crown. The Carrick friendly with Waterford last Friday was more noted for the return of Tony Browne than the hurling spectacle. This coming Sunday the team has a final work-out against Galway at Cloughjordan.
Overall it will be a nervous weekend for the Tipp management with four significant club engagements up North and another pair down South. Avoiding injuries will be top of the wish list, something Kilkenny are struggling with at the moment as we read of further problems for Messrs (no pun) Fennelly and Rice.
I missed the Carrick game but have been assured that there was nothing of major significance to report. Tipperary won narrowly after using eight substitutes in what was diplomatically described as a useful work-out.
Translated that means it had all the intensity of a training spin, which is what you expect from these games.
The panel is now slimmed down to thirty-one bodies after a management cull removed five or six who’d been onboard through most of the spring. It’s a tough, ruthless business where players who have slogged hard through the winter and spring now find themselves surplus to requirements as we approach the championship.
There’s not much room for sentiment as the management opts for what it sees as the best available panel. Present day economics have to be factored in too as the board tries to trim costs.
There are no major surprises in the adjustments that have been made, though I’m sure some of those who’ve lost out might see it differently. Timmy Hammersley has had a very chequered career with the county panel drifting in and out of favour over recent years. He came on as a replacement as recently as the league semi-final against Dublin but now finds himself out of the loop once more. I suspect the arrival of forwards like John O’Dwyer and Jason Forde shoved him down the ranking this year and that ultimately led to his removal.
Hammersley’s club colleague, John O’Neill, had drifted off the scene in recent times, partly due to injury, and he’s now outside the panel also. That leaves just John O’Keeffe of the Clonoulty contingent still onboard.
Others not included in the latest panel that’s profiled on the county website include Adrian Ryan, Sean Curran, Denis Maher and Seamus Hennessy. People will be disappointed that the Kilruane man has not recovered adequately from ongoing injury problems. Since his underage days he hasn’t got a decent run at establishing himself, being dogged by injuries.
Sarsfields’ Denis Maher was on the fringes of the panel in recent months but his form hasn’t really been steady enough to pin down a place on the panel. There are days when he has tongues wagging about his potential but then there are other days when doubts set in.
I’m sure the management would be quick to point out that any panel isn’t set in stone and instead faces ongoing review. As proof of that you have the inclusion of Kieran Bergin and James Barry of Upperchurch in the latest list.
Bergin was the ‘springer’ for the league final and Barry has been hovering on the edges since his underage days. The man from the ‘Church has a neat haul of All Ireland medals from minor, U21 and intermediate; a senior would complete the suit.
In other news regarding the county panel there seems to be optimism that Paddy Stapleton will be fit to face Limerick – indeed some suggest that he might line-out for Borrisoleigh in their North quarter-final against Roscrea at the weekend. There’s less optimism regarding Lar Corbett. Anyway the team has a final friendly this coming Sunday against Galway at Cloughjordan and then all focus will be on Limerick on June 9.
On the club scene Mid and West divisions now have their semi-finals in place for June 16 with some sorting out still to be completed in the North and South.
The Mid completed the process last weekend when Moycarkey sent Holycross packing. A subsequent draw for those semis then paired Upperchurch with Drom and Loughmore against Moycarkey. On all known form followers will anticipate a Drom/Loughmore final.
I saw the Moycarkey/Holycross game on Sunday and didn’t see anything to suggest that either is on the brink of a major breakthrough. It was poor quality fare with Moycarkey always the more likely winners though hampered by an incredible total of nineteen wides over the hour.
Holycross had their share of wayward shots too hitting fourteen by my reckoning which makes for a grand total of thirty-three wides. Yes, it was that type of game and what a contrast to the crisp quality we saw the previous week in Templemore; even within the Mid division standards seem to vary widely.
One of the main differences between the sides on Sunday was Moycarkey’s Kieran Morris. He was a county minor in ’08 and an U21 three years later and really showed something extra in this game. He scored eleven of their eighteen point total (three from play) and was the one consistent ball winner to constantly worrying the Holycross defence. In fact he drew enough attention to be taken out of the game near the end with a hefty frontal tackle. I thought the offender there was lucky to escape with a yellow card.
Moycarkey led by six at the break but with all those wides they failed to put Holycross to the sword and when Donncha Duggan got the game’s only goal for the Abbeysiders midway through the second there there were only three points separating them. Still in the end Moycarkey deservedly got through by four though they’ll face a testing time now against Loughmore in the semi.
In the South there’s an important double-decker at Fethard on Saturday where Davins face Mullinahone and Killenaule square up to Swans. For Davins it’s last chance saloon; they need a win and even then will depend on a favourable result in the final game when Mullinahone play Killenaule. If you were a betting man you’d wager against the red side of Carrick surviving.
The North has a full set of quarter-finals on the agenda, led by those old foes Nenagh and Toomevara. They’ve had some battles in past years though I suspect a bit of the sting has gone out of that rivalry since both sides have slipped in rating.
In fact the North division, despite having thirteen senior sides, is no longer the feared powerhouse of Tipperary hurling, especially since the ‘greyhounds’ lost their aura of invincibility. Portroe are the reigning champions and they’ll fancy going a step further at the expense of Jason Forde and Silvermines.
I think the Roscrea/Borrisoleigh clash might be one of the most interesting; Templederry and Kildangan fight out the remaining quarter-final.
Cappawhite readers of last week’s report on their win over Cashel K.C. were delighted to be told that they’re not just free of relegation for 2013 but can relax next year too in the knowledge that they’re assured of top-sixteen ranking and with it another relegation-free season. I hate to be bursting the bubble but the reality, I’m afraid, is quite different. They’re free of relegation this year alright but if they lose their West semi to Clonoulty they’ll then have to win a round in the county series to qualify for top tier in 2014.
It’s amazing how this club structure was voted in last January and yet has so much confusion and uncertainty surrounding its small-print details. Actually the designers of this new system pulled off a major stroke by getting through a structure that won’t properly kick-in until 2014.
Because it wasn’t applying immediately there was no focusing of minds on the detail and it’s only later this year and next season that the true implications will hit home. And for many clubs the implications are serious.
For the last time let’s spell out what will happen this year and then the implications for 2014. The sixteen teams who don’t make their divisional semi-finals go into a round one draw for the county championship. The eight losers there enter the O’Riain Cup, which also has relegation attached. The eight winners from round one of the county championship play-off with the eight losing divisional semi-finalists and it’s the winners of this round who will be guaranteed places in the top-tier next season. Those eight winners will join the eight divisional finalists to make up the top-sixteen who will play out for the Dan Breen.
Still confused? Well, it will become clear as events unfold. With two sides being relegated from 2014 onwards the blunt reality is that a lot of the present senior teams will face demotion in the next few years. For some, I suspect, the consequences will be drastic, unless they enthusiastically embrace intermediate hurling. The system could potentially be most damaging to divisions like the South and West because if they lose a few teams their championships could become unviable.
P.S. The published RTE schedule includes very little live coverage of Munster senior hurling – just the Clare v. Waterford game and then the final. I know that TG4 takes up the slack very admirably but surely it is very shabby treatment of those whose grasp of Gaeilge is not sufficient to enjoy such coverage. With so few quality hurling games available, and the Munster series likely to have some of the best of them, surely Montrose and Ryle Nugent could have planned better. Then again I wouldn’t expect a rugby man to understand.
P.P.S. I was smiling to myself watching the Late Late Show and the retelling of that old anecdote about Jack Lynch and the Tipp man who warned him in a Munster final that if he wasn’t careful there’d be a bye-election in Cork. The quip was credited this time Tony Reddin, sitting in the audience and looking remarkable for a man of ninety-three. The funny thing is that I’ve also heard that verbal dig being credited to several other players over the years such as ‘The Rattler’ Byrne and little Jimmy Maher among others. So who did say it? Indeed was it ever said? Sounds like something that was thought up afterwards and sounded too amusing to be let go. Why let fact interfere with a good story?