Good Friday row highlights limerick's sobering reality
Published 10/03/2010 | 05:00
Well, at least we know where priorities rest in Limerick. Even if a solution were found immediately to the hurling conflict, the season is effectively written off in terms of Limerick reaching whatever potential they possess.
Yet, for all the damage that will do to sport in Limerick, the public don't seem to give a damn -- certainly not in comparison to the prospect of having pubs closed on the day of a rugby game. Now that's completely different, enough indeed to swell the floods of outrage on the Shannon.
Make what you will of that but, however generous the interpretation, it doesn't reflect well on Limerick although, in fairness, there's a wider dimension too.
The country that presented a reduction in drink prices as a significant plank in a Budget that hit so many vulnerable people in so many ways is now under pressure to amend its licensing laws because the organisers of a rugby competition, which is sponsored by a drinks company, stupidly fixed a glamour game on one of the two days of the year that the pubs are closed here.
Describing the laws governing pub closures on Good Friday as "outdated and stupid", the Mayor of Limerick, Kevin Kiely, argued they "should be consigned to the past".
He's right but are the regulations any more flawed now than they were last year?
Did Mr Kiely raise his dissenting views back then? I don't recall that, but then laws and rules are only deemed faulty in Ireland when they impact directly on some vested interest or other.
One aspect of the controversy has left me puzzled. Isn't the Magners League (formerly the Celtic League) controlled by the Irish, Scottish and Welsh rugby unions? In that case, did nobody from the IRFU point out the apparent anomaly of having two Irish provinces playing at home on Good Friday night (Leinster v Munster; Connacht v Edinburgh)? Surely it would have been quite easy to tweak the schedule to avoid that?
Instead, an embarrassing row has developed over access to drink, which is scarcely what the country needs right now.
Limerick could well do without it too, just as it could do without the ongoing hurling dispute. Unlike in Cork last year, where the general public and, eventually the clubs, engaged in the stand-off between players/ management/county board, Limerick has ambled along as if nobody really cares.
Frankly, what's happened is frightening for Limerick hurling. It's bad enough to have many of the top hurlers refusing to play for the county team, but the fact that the public appear so apathetic makes it even worse.
Even if Limerick had a full squad to choose from, they still wouldn't be anything like serious contenders for major honours. As it stands, they have little chance of being in any way competitive once the season settles down.
Remarkably, there are some in Limerick who seem to think that seven and 10-point defeats by Galway and Cork in the opening rounds of the league were somehow satisfactory.
The second-string team have been rightly praised for their effort and commitment but, as a unit, they're simply not good enough to compete at the highest level. And if this continues, things will get a whole lot worse for Limerick in the later stages of the league and into the championship.
Do the Limerick public not care? I'm writing this in advance of last night's county board meeting but whatever transpired there, the truth is that, up to now, clubs have been remarkably silent on a row where the damage to Limerick hurling could extend far beyond this season. Do they not see how serious the situation has become?
Irrespective of whether or not the pubs in the city are open on Good Friday, Thomond Park will rock to the Munster-Leinster beat. Two days later, Kilkenny come to Limerick for a League game. It should be a great occasion but unless there's considerable movement on the scene, it's unlikely that more than 1,500 people will turn up.
In the second half of the 1990s, over 20,000 turned out for Limerick-Clare NHL games in successive years.
And in 2001 -- the year the leagues were disrupted due to the foot and mouth precautions -- over 10,000 attended a Limerick-Clare game at the Gaelic Grounds on a Thursday evening. Now, even Limerick supporters don't seem to even care about hurling in the county.
Instead, they're more concerned over whether they can combine pints with rugby on Good Friday night. Now that should be a worry for the GAA -- inside and outside Limerick.
Extra practice can cure rash of shoddy shooting
MAYO kicked 18 wides against Dublin in Castlebar in Division 1 of the National Football League last Sunday in one of those examples of atrocious shooting that makes you wonder how inter-county players can sometimes be so inaccurate.
The malaise infected kicks from open play and frees and, as the game progressed, Mayo players lost so much confidence that the ball was off-loaded at every opportunity to avoid taking personal responsibility for shooting.
It was a particularly bad day for Mayo's kickers but they're not on their own. Truth is, there has been a decline in the standard of kicking all across the country.
Presumably, the reason for that is that players simply don't put the time into practising that particular skill.
Watch modern-day pre-match drills and you'll find that there's far more organisation going into other aspects such as hand-passing, blocking etc.
Any wonder that accuracy suffers?