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Plunkett calls on GAA to put politics aside for the good of hurling

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Killian Doyle will be the main threat to the president Laois, according to ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett. Photo: Sportsfile

Killian Doyle will be the main threat to the president Laois, according to ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett. Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Killian Doyle will be the main threat to the president Laois, according to ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett. Photo: Sportsfile

In a GAA world where concentration is solely on 'the next game', Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett always examines the bigger picture, with today's Joe McDonagh Cup final a prime example.

It's a huge occasion for Laois and Westmeath as they descend on Croke Park chasing silverware, but Cheddar views the current hurling championship system as "tokenism".

Today's winners will compete in next year's Leinster SHC, but in all likelihood, they will be heading straight back down and Cheddar is calling on GAA chiefs to do something about hurling's narrow talent pool rather than pay lip service.

"It would be a very easy thing to look at all the teams in the Joe McDonagh, and I'd include Offaly in that, and say 'look, let's have a completely separate project for these counties'," the former Laois boss said.

"They have an awful lot of things going for them including strong geographical support, strong supporter base and strong clubs. There needs to be a vision within the GAA driven by the president to look at a project and get behind these counties.

"This would need a special project reporting directly to the president. It needs clout and you need to get away from the politics in Croke Park, Leinster Council and the politics within individual county boards.

"Playing at the pace of the Joe McDonagh and expecting teams to be able to step up next year, it's just not going to happen and it's not realistic unless there's a ten-year programme to improve these counties."

While not knocking tiered championships and their competitiveness, Cheddar feels such systems are creating larger divides from hurling's top table and he doesn't foresee progress unless the GAA make suitable plans to effect change.

"Anyone that says we're doing any-thing other than narrowing the pool of hurling counties really isn't being honest. If it's going to be a ten-team championship, in my lifetime, I will never see Laois step across that divide and that gap is going to get bigger," he said.

"That is unless somebody says that we're going to do something about it and that we have a long-term vision for 16 counties, that's what we should aim for. Then, step back and look at strategic plans and operation plans and performance reviews that would be needed to close the gap.

"You'll hear all the time 'play at your own level'. I never hear anyone say 'play at your own level but here's how we're going to raise your level'. It's the second piece I'm interested in because the first part doesn't need a whole lot of intelligence to trot out.

"In other words 'stay in the back waters, you won't get any TV coverage, you won't get any real serious media coverage but so what, aren't you lucky enough and happy enough to stay where you are?'

"That's wrong. What if the five Joe McDonagh Cup teams said to the GAA, 'sorry lads, we're not going to play in this competition, we'll just play in our own club competitions for the next couple of years until you come to your senses on this'. What would they do then?

"There seems to be no problem spending a lot of money on capital projects like Páirc Uí Chaoimh when the overspend alone would go a long way to driving these counties to perform and be competitive in an All-Ireland championship."

As for the action on the pitch - which regrettably clashes with the highly- anticipated Munster SHC final between Tipperary and Limerick - Cheddar expects little to separate Eddie Brennan's O'Moore men and Joe Quaid's Lake side.

Greater firepower in the likes of Ross King, Mark Kavanagh, Charles Dwyer and Paddy Purcell tips the scales in Laois's favour, but Cheddar is on guard against a Killian Doyle-inspired Westmeath.

"I'd be a little bit worried about conceding goals and Laois need to figure out how they are going to handle Killian Doyle," he said.

"We have scoring forwards and a good record against Westmeath in important games over the last 10 or 15 years, but Westmeath have a good set-up and realise that they have a window of opportunity with this team."

Sunday Indo Sport