Lack of caring compounds treaty plight
How's this for irony? The number of teams competing in the race for Liam McCarthy has increased to 13 in the same season as one of the traditionally strong counties has somehow managed to not only tie one hand behind its back, but also fix a patch over one eye.
Just as it's great to see Carlow back in the Leinster champion-ship, it's depressing to watch Limerick effectively rule themselves out of contention in Munster. Worse still, it now seems to be accepted that their year is a write-off.
The objective of every county must be to give themselves the best possible chance of reaching as high as their talents merit. Whether that's winning five-in-a-row, which is Kilkenny's record-breaking aim; or taking over as No 1, which Tipperary, Galway, Cork and Waterford are pursuing with realistic ambitions; or whether it's lower down the target area, the end-of-season review should always centre on one question -- did we get the most out of the available talent?
Even before the championship starts, everybody in Limerick knows that the answer will be an emphatic 'no'.
Limerick are not due out in the championship until next month when they meet the winners of Cork v Tipperary, but already the season has spiralled out of control to such a degree that if they can avoid a big defeat, followed by a tame exit from the qualifiers, it will be a major surprise.
What's most disappointing is that nobody seems to give a damn anymore. The fact that Limerick will head into the Munster championship with most of their best players watching from the stands should have turned the Gaelic Grounds into an Athens-like protest ground, but instead there's seems to be an acceptance that 2010 is a wasteland.
As for what happens beyond, well who knows?
Justin McCarthy's decision to omit so many players from the squad without telling them was ill-advised (we live in an age of communication, for God's sake) and, once that had happened, serious trouble was brewing.
However, that's where county boards come in. One of their many jobs is to sort out disputes, however intractable they might appear. The only problem that can't be fully overcome is how to prevent death at some stage of your lifetime; everything else is solvable.
Can the Limerick County Board honestly say they are fulfilling their mandate to hurling if they are despatching a shadow team into action?
Of course, the problem extends far beyond Limerick. It's seriously damaging for the game not to have a major, traditional power at full strength. Hurling needs to protect its heartlands like never before, but that's not happening in Limerick.
If the Limerick County Board couldn't work to a solution, then the Munster Council and/or Croke Park should have stepped in. Both are affected by the Limerick mess, yet neither have intervened, certainly not publicly anyway.
"There's nothing we can do," was the excuse from Croke Park last spring. How come they felt that they could do something in Cork the year before? Besides, if you admit you have no idea how to solve a problem, then you're unlikely to find an answer.
Croke Park should have long since called in the Limerick county Board and told them that if a mechanism wasn't found to ensure that the strongest hurling team was fielded, they were all guilty of bringing the GAA into disrepute. It's that serious.
Furthermore, Croke Park should have called a meeting between Justin McCarthy and his management, the County Board executive and the disgruntled 2009 panel and insisted that nobody was leaving until a solution was thrashed out.
An over-simplification? Absolutely not. We're talking sport here, not the Israel-Palestine conflict. All is quiet on the Limerick front now but the damage has been done, the impact of which will become really apparent over the next two months and indeed beyond.
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To matters more positive and the launch of the Leinster championship when Laois take on Carlow this evening. Carlow's progress has been very impressive at all levels over the last few years, while it's also good to see Laois back on such a united front and returning towards the standard which used to make them so dangerous for any opposition.
Niall Rigney has done an excellent job, not just in imposing his own philosophy on how they play but also in getting the clubs and players all pulling together.
In terms of where he started out from in mid-season two years ago, he has taken Laois a long way. What's more, they'll continue to get better. Carlow will test them but I will be very surprised if Laois don't book a date with Dublin in the next round.