Monday 25 September 2017

Gym fixation weakening our games

Marin breheny

I wonder if Liam MacCarthy has sent his people over to Eoin Larkin's house yet for a familiarity visit. Liam has got settled in his ways since the start of the new Millennium, wintering every year in the gentry's castles across Kilkenny, Cork and Tipperary.

He has acquired a particular fondness for Kilkenny, living it up with them for eight of the last 12 years. And if we're to heed popular opinion, he has already decided stay put again this year -- hence his interest in Larkin who, as Kilkenny captain, could be chief host from September on.

It appears that only Tipperary believe they have any chance of breaking the cosy arrangement that Kilkenny have hatched with Liam.

There are pockets of support elsewhere for the view that Tipperary have a chance of busting the cartel, but, beyond that, it seems the other contenders may as well sign up for continued subservience straight away.

Kilkenny's demolitions of Cork in the league final and of Dublin last Saturday have created the impression that far from the chasing pack catching up on the champions, the gap is widening all the time.

Only time will tell if that is, indeed, the case, but it would be unwise to overvalue either of those results.

League finals aren't always reliable guides to the rest of the season, as proven last year when Dublin beat Kilkenny by 12 points, and in 2010 when Galway trimmed Cork.

Kilkenny reversed the league final setback next time they met Dublin, winning the Leinster final by 11 points, while, in 2010, Cork beat Tipperary by 10 points in the Munster championship a few weeks after losing by eight points to Galway.

Kilkenny's easy win last Saturday had as much to do with Dublin's inefficiency as their conquerors' excellence. Unquestionably, Kilkenny played well, but Dublin were so sloppy that several other teams would have also beaten them comprehensively.

After all, it wasn't the first time this season that Dublin collapsed, having signed out of Division 1A with a 14-point defeat (only four less than Saturday's margin) against Galway in a relegation play-off in April.

Dublin are a whole lot better than they showed in either of those two games, but, for whatever reason, tend to have days when they capitulate so easily that it's as if their confidence switch trips.

It's a problem which needs to be rectified. And it can.

While some of Dublin hurling's most loyal enthusiasts were in near despair as they left O'Moore Park under the low, spitting clouds last Saturday evening, this season could yet take a dramatic upturn for Daly's men.

In that regard, their clash with Clare on Saturday week will be one of the most important they have played for a very long time.

A defeat would close them out for the year with only one win (against second-grade Laois) from 10 outings, heading into Division 1B next year.

Conversely, a win in Ennis could kickstart their season and leave them with every chance of making considerable progress.

Daly made an interesting point last Saturday evening, suggesting that Kilkenny's reputation may now be spreading an inferiority complex among opposition.

If, indeed, that is the case, it's a serious problem, because trying to match Kilkenny is difficult enough without experiencing a psychological meltdown.

It's crucial for future Kilkenny opposition, starting with Galway on Sunday week, that they don't over-

react to either the league final or last Saturday.

Inevitably, Kilkenny are being eulogised, which is understandable, but if opposition buy into the perception that they're barely worthy of being on the same pitch, they may as well stay at home.

In fairness to Tipperary, they don't believe that, but some others certainly show signs of mental weakness against Kilkenny. For as long as that persists, so too will black-and-amber dominance.

As of now, Kilkenny are 1/6 to win the Leinster final, 4/9 to win the All-Ireland title, 1/5 to reach the All-Ireland final and 1/66 to reach the semi-final. Essentially, those figures are telling the other contenders that they are already also-rans.

Question is: how many of them believe it? Hopefully, for the sake of hurling, only a few.

One final thing on Kilkenny v Dublin. Once again, Dublin failed to score a goal, leaving them with the embarrassing return of just one goal from eight championship games against Kilkenny, stretching back to 1998.

That's one goal in nine hours and 20 minutes of hurling.

Even then, Paul Ryan's goal in last year's Leinster final was from a free, which means that no Dublin forward has scored a championship goal from open play against Kilkenny since Gerry Ennis in the 1997 Leinster semi-final. Astonishing.

Gym fixation weakening our games

HOW about this from Ken Hogan in the match programme for Cork v Tipperary last Sunday?

"I would question the strength and conditioning work that is involved in preparation for hurling. Hurling is a game of skill, agility and speed of body and mind.

"Too many trainers with backgrounds in other disciplines are involved in strength work with our elite players. Let's concentrate on the skills."

Hogan's extensive CV as a player and coach makes his comments worthy of serious consideration right across the GAA world.

It would be a great pity if hurling were to be corrupted by outside influences using systems which have nothing to do with the game.

It has already happened in football, much to the game's detriment.

Also in the match programme, former Cork star Tony O'Sullivan, while acknowledging that modern-day players are fitter and quicker than their predecessors, queried whether it was at the expense of ground hurling and skills such as overhead striking.

Another point well made.

Irish Independent

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