Carlow 'well able to hurl' despite lack of respect, insists Foley
Carlow hurling deserves more respect for its progress and achievements in recent years, Mount Leinster Rangers goalkeeper Frank Foley has claimed.
Foley's sentiments are broadly shared by county board chairman Michael Meaney, who feels hurling in the less established counties just isn't taken seriously enough.
Meaney pointed to the acknowledgment of a 'top 10' in hurling, who will retain mainstream status in next year's championship after Congress approved a motion to reduce the numbers participating in the Liam MacCarthy Cup over the next three years.
Kilkenny, Cork, Tipperary, Galway, Clare, Limerick, Dublin, Waterford, Wexford and Offaly have all been given 'protection' as the numbers are scaled down.
Antrim, Carlow, Westmeath, Laois and London will enter a preliminary competition to earn two places in the Leinster championship proper, the bottom team dropping down to the Christy Ring Cup and the second-last team playing the Christy Ring Cup winners to determine a MacCarthy Cup place.
Meaney said that a mindset where the top 10 are protected in this way militates against 'breakthrough' counties like Carlow, and he hopes this can change.
"We've been told that this will be revisited at Congress next year but I have my doubts as to whether it will get support," he said. "It would require a two-thirds majority and generally the top teams will vote together to protect themselves.
"The idea that certain counties will hold on to their status as a top-10 team even if they are beaten by one of the preliminary teams in a Leinster quarter-final is wrong in our estimation.
"But it reflects our view that the game in places like Carlow and Laois just isn't taken seriously enough by those outside the counties.
"Laois and Carlow have both beaten the Dublin U-21s in the last two years yet there will be more attached to what Dublin do in coming years."
Meaney said he accepted the democracy of the recent Central Council vote on National Hurling League reform, despite leading the move for a counter-proposal involving 14 teams (the addition of Carlow and Westmeath) instead of 12 in Division 1.
"I wouldn't say it made a mockery of the vote (what Mount Leinster Rangers have achieved). That's a strong word. But you would have to ask those who voted against our proposal,"he said.
Meaney added that Wexford were one of the counties who opposed their 14-team Division 1 league plan. "We're effectively in Division 3 yet we have the Leinster club champions. But no doubt it is a huge boost for Carlow hurling and hurling in counties like ours."
He made light of the comments of the former Cork football selector John Corcoran at a recent Cork County Board meeting that Carlow dictating to Cork on hurling issues was "akin to Jedward telling Pavarotti how to sing".
"In fairness to John Corcoran, they're at every county board meeting in Ireland, coming out with speaks like that. But that's all part of the fun and you wouldn't want to be getting hung up on things like that," said Meaney.
Meanwhile, Foley is adamant that there is a respect deficit when it comes to Carlow hurling. "After the way we played the last day, we knew we had a fair enough chance but maybe everyone thought that was our day," Foley reflected on the semi-final win over Ballyboden St Enda's two weeks earlier.
"Maybe that's how it was going to be, that that was our final. We knew what Oulart would do but we knew we were well able to hurl.
"Even when we were playing Ballyboden we never even got a mention. Respect doesn't go a long way but this group deserves respect. The whole country saw it, it was live on TG4. We're well able to hurl. It's about time that people gave us the respect we deserve. We probably came in as underdogs, fair enough, they're Oulart, but a bit more respect was probably what we needed.
"It drove us on massively. You don't like being put down, no one likes it. We've worked as hard as Oulart have worked, as hard as any team.
"I've a wife and the boys have girlfriends. I've given up whole Sundays going off leaving a young boy and girl at home, crying wondering why they can't go off – that's sacrifice. We make those sacrifices, the exact same as Kilkenny, Wexford, Cork, anyone – but we don't get the respect we deserve."
He also took issue with Irish Independent columnist Cyril Farrell, suggesting he was "dismissive" towards them during the summer.
"You have Cyril Farrell and all these people on 'The Sunday Game'... we had a qualifier against Wexford last year in Wexford Park. On the Sunday before it on the 'Sunday Game', Cyril Farrell dismissed us just like that," he claimed.
"One thing I will say is, I'll give credit to the likes of Kevin Ryan, John Meyler, Eoin Garvey – all those people that worked in Carlow. It's great for all those people who came in and plied their trade in a so-called weaker county, and gave us every chance in the world, and that pays off. We're well able to hurl."