Friday 20 October 2017

Brennan rebuked for Walsh Cup cull call

Kilkenny manager Eddie Brennan. Picture credit: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
Kilkenny manager Eddie Brennan. Picture credit: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
Kilkenny captain Michael Malone (right) with Offaly captain Conor Doughan and referee Alfie Devine before Sunday’s Walsh Cup encounter in Birrrule. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Eddie Brennan's call for the scrapping of pre-season hurling tournaments has been strongly rejected by Leinster Council chairman John Horan.

He pointed out that revenue raised by both the Bord na Mona Walsh and O'Byrne Cups goes to a hardship fund, distributed throughout the province.

Leinster's pre-season games generated €193,000 in 2015 and have totalled almost €600,000 for the last four seasons.

While Horan didn't refer specifically to Brennan (pictured), his statement was issued less than 24 hours after the Kilkenny U-21 manager made his comments. Horan defended the pre-season games, insisting that they fulfil a number a key roles for counties and colleges.

"It is important to again place on record the important role that our January competitions play within our Association," he said.

"The Walsh Cup was established in 1954 and together with the Kehoe Cup senior hurling and the O'Byrne Cup senior football competitions, they are collectively known as the Accident Tournaments.

"Money generated from the attendances at these games is used to address issues of hardship suffered by players and by ordinary members of the GAA in Leinster," said Horan.

It follows remarks by Brennan that young players were being overstretched in January.

"There is far too much hurling. I've won a few Walsh Cups but I would question whether it has run its course. There is a lot going on in the season so maybe leave this time of year free for third level colleges," he said.

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He was speaking after a Kilkenny team, which featured several U-21 players, lost to Offaly in the Walsh Cup in Birr on Sunday.

Kilkenny also lost to DIT last Wednesday with a team made up predominantly of U-21 players. Brennan took charge for both games, which showed that Kilkenny were treating the competition mainly as a run-out for youngsters,supported by some seniors.

Kilkenny have an excellent record in the Walsh Cup, especially under Brian Cody, who presided over six wins in the 2005-14 period.

The All-Ireland champions returned from holidays only a few days before they were due to play DIT last week, which prompted the decision to rely mainly on U-21s.

Brennan's intervention comes at a time when player burnout is very much on the GAA agenda, with several motions on the issue due to come before Congress next month.

"This year has definitely opened up my eyes. You're getting a feel for what fellas are doing regards freshers' programmes, and some of it is just off the wall.

"There is merit in reducing the number of games for players between the ages of 18 and 21," he said.

However, Kilkenny still selected several U-21s for the Walsh Cup over the past week. Formal training for U-21 hurling squads is prohibited under rule until after the Independent.ie Fitzgibbon Cup finals weekend.

This year's event will take place in Cork on February 26/27 so county U-21 squads can't train together until March.

Brennan's questioning of the merit of the Walsh Cup clearly hasn't gone down well with the Leinster Council.

Horan said that the money raised by the January competitions was used carefully to provide assistance for those who needed it in the province.

"It's done privately and without fanfare but it's an opportunity for Leinster GAA to play a role in helping out individuals and families in a time of need, " he said.

He also insisted that the pre-season tournaments played a significant role in preparing senior teams for the Allianz Leagues.

The obvious corollary is that if those tournaments were scrapped, counties would be busy on the challenge game circuit.

Tipperary withdrew from this year's Munster Hurling League, leaving them relying on challenge games, whereas the other Munster counties each have four games in a round-robin format.

Meanwhile, Kerry will be allowed use three non-native players in this year's Leinster Hurling Championship round robin series.

They were granted a derogation at Saturday's Central Council meeting to use three outside players who were part of the panel for last season's Christy Ring Cup, which Kerry won.

They are in a group with Carlow, Westmeath and Offaly in the Leinster Championship, with two to qualify for the quarter-finals against Galway and Laois respectively.

Ciaran Carey's squad, who will be at home to Carlow and Westmeath and away to Offaly, appear to have an excellent chance of reaching the quarter-finals in their first season in the Leinster Championship.

Irish Independent

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