Sunday 19 November 2017

Hurling draw defies logic

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

ACCORDING to Census 2011, the population of Meath is 184,034. Not everyone in Royal land has a interest in the county's football team but for hypothesis sake, let's assume that it runs to half (92,017).

If their views are accurately reflected on the county board, then 53,370 Meath people did not want Seamus McEnaney in charge for this year's championship. That's based on the 43-31 majority in favour of an April motion proposing his removal, which followed Meath's relegation to Division 3.

Okay, county boards everywhere have, at best, a fragile relationship with democracy but, nevertheless, according to the vote, 58pc of Meath's decision-makers wanted 'Banty' out -- and he only survived because they failed to gather the necessary two-thirds majority.


He could have counted himself lucky to have attracted as much support, not because it made any sense to discard him but because this was the same county board that shamefully removed Eamonn O'Brien two months after he presided over Meath's first Leinster title win for nine years in 2010.

Anyway, back to 'Banty' and those who wanted him removed 11 weeks ago. It would have been easy for him to sidle quietly from the premises as the pressure piled up but it's not his style.

Hell will host the world ice-skating championship before 'Banty' would consider chopping off his managerial head and presenting it to anybody, let alone royalty. He battled on, survived the board vote, had a scare when his team came so close to losing to Carlow for the first time in championship history and then... redemption.

Only time will tell if Meath's victory over Kildare was a one-off or a launch into orbit. For now, though, Meath are in a happy land.

The question is, what have all the board delegates, and by extension those who supported them, to say? Very little, actually. After all, nobody can argue with a Leinster semi-final win as 3/1 outsiders.

Had McEnaney resigned and his replacement led Meath to the Leinster final, those who plotted the heave would have been congratulating themselves on their courage and leadership skills. And, if the new manager was Sean Boylan -- a highly probable scenario -- it would have been seen as a masterstroke.

Instead, the anti-'Banty' brigade must pretend to be delighted by the dramatic turn of events, however uncomfortable it makes them feel.

Ultimately, it's about this: changing manager when pressure comes on isn't always the correct answer. It creates an illusion of leadership, no more.

It's a case of never mind the shallowness, check the Twitter trash and the moronic message boards. Once that nutty world is happy, who cares about substance or integrity?

McEnaney's brave defence of his managerial pedigree has been vindicated, while also striking a blow for beleaguered managers, current and future.

In the end, there was enough decency (only just, mind you) in Meath to recognise that ditching him pre-championship would be unfair. Others would do well to heed the lesson.

Just as Meath's star rose last Sunday, questions are being asked over whether the Seanie Johnson saga distracted Kildare.

There are claims that his interminably long transfer process, culminating in a one-minute hurling career with Coill Dubh last Saturday, embarked upon to facilitate his regularisation as a Kildare footballer, wasn't good for morale in the camp.

Who knows? Instead, let's stick to a reality about Kildare which has been evident for quite some time, one which put the desire to acquire Johnston in context. Kildare don't have the attacking talent required to win an All-Ireland title.

It's all very well talking about how their players are so adaptable, how defenders can morph into forwards and vice-versa, as if it were part of a masterplan to revolutionise Gaelic football. It's not. Instead, it's an attempt by Kieran McGeeney to improvise with existing resources, complete with their limitations. They have taken Kildare a certain distance but no further.

Amid all the hype of recent years, there's no escaping the fact that they have reached just one Leinster final in the past nine seasons, spent four seasons in Division 2 and were lucky to escape this year, and haven't beaten any team rated above them in the championship for a long time.

Essentially, the problem centres on a lack of class forwards. Whether Johnston provides part of the solution remains to be seen but you can't blame McGeeney for trying to find out.

Hurling draw defies logic

ARE there championship games where it's better to lose than win? There shouldn't be but the contrasting experiences of Offaly hurlers, as opposed to Wexford and Limerick, raises doubts.

Offaly beat Wexford in the Leinster quarter-final, the prize for which was a semi-final with Galway, who beat them by 14 points. Next stop for the Faithful county is a Phase 2 All-Ireland qualifier against Cork at Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Wexford had two qualifiers games -- both at home -- and beat Westmeath and Carlow comfortably. They now await the winners of Cork/Offaly or Dublin/Clare in Phase 3.

So too did Limerick who, after losing to Tipperary, played weak Laois and Antrim teams at home.

Whereas Wexford and Limerick each had home advantage for two games they were certain to win, thereby providing an opportunity to re-focus, Offaly's first outing after the demolition by Galway is a trip to Cork. And when Wexford and Limerick re-appear for action on Saturday week it will be at neutral venues.

Two questions arise.

1: What benefit did Offaly's win over Wexford bestow on them?

2: Isn't it time to tweak the qualifiers so that quarter-final winners are treated better than quarter-final losers?

Irish Independent

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