Where's the gratitude?
Published 17/02/2013 | 04:00
THERE is a perfectly valid reason why there are no Kildare players on the Leinster team to play Connacht in Longford this afternoon: it is unfair on players to expect them to play so many games in quick succession this early in the season, especially for those who are also playing for their college.
Except that Kildare aren't the only county in that boat; and Kildare's players aren't the only ones facing that hectic schedule. Longford's Michael Quinn, for example, is playing his fifth top-level game in 15 days and I would bet a pretty penny that he is delighted to be part of today's action.
There is another perfectly valid reason why there are no players from Kildare in the squad: it is that those who were asked were simply not available and had others been asked they may well have been available.
Except that it's a fair bet many of those playing for their province today had to change personal plans to be able to do so.
It was reported last week that the Kildare players were 'unavailable' to hook up with Pat Gilroy's panel. This, it seems, was simply a coincidence, owing to a combination of factors. There was no instruction from team manager Kieran McGeeney to his players not to be part of Pat Gilroy's squad. McGeeney himself has been emphatic on this point.
Yet, despite these reports, the GAA's normally ultra-conservative official website on Friday stated that "Kildare boss Kieran McGeeney refused to make his Kildare players available for selection for the interprovincial championship".
This after GAA president Liam O'Neill had also appeared to single Kildare out for its failure to get on board with attempts to revive the series. He said: "I would be urging all counties in a positive way to support this venture, to send their players to play in the competition and support the concept that this is bigger than just whatever reasons people might have for not playing for the province. At the moment, I've only heard of the one county saying that, but I'd hope that all counties would support their provincial team and that whatever two provinces come to Croke Park for the final will put out their strongest teams so that we can bring people in."
Perhaps it is unfair to expect players to play this afternoon. Most inter-county players have had a hectic schedule over the last eight or nine weeks, with intense pre-season training regimes and a heavy programme of games.
But, in some ways, this is hardly the point; because the Kildare GAA family owes the GAA, and the Leinster Council, a pretty large debt of gratitude given last year's bailout of €300,000 to the hugely indebted county board.
This money in no small way contributed to the Kildare players being able to continue to enjoy the best possible conditions in which to prepare for this year's championship. And so it is hardly stretching it too far that Kildare – and its players – could have returned that pretty large favour with a much smaller one, by supporting this afternoon's game. Because to do otherwise could be seen to be ungrateful.