I WOKE up Monday morning after a hectic GAA weekend wondering if I need to broaden my pastime outlets a little after another busy few days devoted to GAA.
Between club, inter-county and camogie, I watched (either by attendance or on the box) six club games, three inter-county and one camogie game, with a Sunday morning training session added in for good measure.
While it may appear a very blinkered existence, the enjoyment from the games as well as meeting many old and interesting friends make it the perfect way to spend my time.
I know there are so many who share my passion, and we are indeed lucky in this country to have such simple pleasures on our doorstep.
First port of call was a Friday wedding which saw a St. Martin’s, Faythe Harriers, St. Mary’s of Maudlintown unification.
Alex Lynch of the legendary town family married Shenagh O’Byrne of Piercestown on a wonderful day, mixed with – you have guessed it – many hurling discussions.
I spent most of the day in the company of a St. Anne’s man who – I was informed later – had received a belt of a bar as a youngster, which explained his reluctance to go near one on the day. In his defence, once he got going, he could not be stopped.
On a point of dedication, Alex followed his big day by lining out in his beloved purple and gold with the Harriers on Sunday, although things did not work out as well against the Crossabeg men.
We are fortunate to have such dedicated young men playing our game, just as Alex is fortunate in his choice of the perfect partner.
The local championship is in full flow, but there are visible player welfare dangers facing us over the next three or four months. In many cases our Under-19 players will have played four championship games in twelve or so days, and this brings the issue of burn-out again to the surface.
The congested fixture list also militates against players who may suffer injury. An injury (even relatively minor) could finish a season, and I feel that four groups of three may have been a better option given the time restraints faced.
I know clubs have agreed this so I am not apportioning blame, but we must think more clearly when setting out our objectives for the year.
Lastly, I still cannot comprehend the decision not to go back to the original Under-18 and Under-21 grades.
I attended a talk a few years back by a British Airways pilot on how to manage a crisis. One of his main messages was, “never be afraid to change your mind if you have made the wrong decision”, and for me the GAA have badly erred here and need to revert to the old way as there is a major crisis at present with significant player loss in the 18 to 21 age brackets.
Oylegate created somewhat of a shock at the weekend with a well-deserved win against one of my pre-championship favourites, Shelmaliers. The Over The Water men will still be there or thereabouts, but Gorey now look the form team with another excellent performance over the weekend.
Ger Cushe will be more than aware that there is a long way to go, but he still must be happy with his team’s performances to date.
St. Anne’s find themselves in a good position with four points, and I am reliably informed that their two championship wins are their first victories of the year to date. It just shows how well the down south men time their performances, with another strong showing against Cloughbawn in Monamolin.
Ferns are showing fine form as well and there is something about them this year that suggests they will not be far away, with a hugely morale-boosting win over the champions from what seemed an unlikely half-time position.
Overall, it is too early to make definitive predictions, with the main aim at this point being to make the quarters and put relegation to bed. Knockout time will tell more, with momentum then being a vital ingredient.
I have always felt Leinster hurling has been unfairly judged against our Munster counterparts but, regardless of what happens next, Kilkenny and Galway have given a resounding answer.
The Cats are amazing and T.J. Reid is moving into the greatest-ever category for many. He has many attributes, but I am officially nicknaming him ‘Turnover T.J.’ as he is possibly the best forward to dispossess an opponent in the game today.
For me he is the complete player, and we are fortunate to have lived through his era.
Finally, I am not going to comment on Armagh’s disciplinary record, as there is enough analysis of this already and I do not feel qualified to judge.
Tiernan Kelly has made a mistake and paid for it with a 24-week ban, and I am not going to defend the young Armagh man’s action. We have all made mistakes and now need to move on, but I do have two comments to make.
I do feel that some of our commentary pundits have rose-tinted glasses when looking back through the years. I smiled at the reference of one of my favourite footballers ever, Colm O’Rourke, to his Meath team of yesteryear as “not being too delicate”. I remember that team well and his analogy is a little kind.
We should be a little more forgiving of the mistakes of the present day, given the many pressures players face.
Secondly, I was interested to see that a 24-week suspension is the barometer for an incident such as eye-gouging. I, more than anyone, realise that if you do the crime, you should serve the time.
I must admit though to being a little confused about the consistency of the punishments. Have a good week everyone.