Saturday 20 January 2018

'Sambo' needs more drum-beaters

Antrim's co-manager Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton Photo: Sportsfile
Antrim's co-manager Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Here's what 'Sambo' McNaughton had to say about the current state of play for Antrim hurlers.

"We play Carlow next week. If we were to get beaten there and in our next game, that's our season over. We wouldn't get to train or play as a county team in May, June, July, August," he told Declan Bogue in an interview in this newspaper last Saturday.

'Sambo' then went on to vent his frustration over a competition structure which will leave some counties with no games between the end of April and next year.

Given the improvement in Antrim since McNaughton and Dominic McKinley took over as joint-managers last year, it unlikely their season will end so early but it's a fate that will befall lots of players in hurling's lower tiers. And even those who qualify for the Ring, Rackard and Meagher Cup finals will have their season closed out by June 10.

Not that early finishes are confined to the three lower tiers. Two from Laois, Westmeath, Kerry and Meath will be eliminated from the Liam MacCarthy Cup race by May 14 after the completion of the Leinster 'round robin'.

We highlighted here last week how quite a few football counties will be eliminated from the provincial championships and All-Ireland qualifiers before Roscommon play their first game on June 18 but the situation is even worse in hurling where the season closes so early for so many.

Question is - why do they put up with it? It's defies logic that a game like hurling, where the quality is so reliant on good ground conditions, features the vast majority of its action in the first four months of the year.

'Sambo' McNaughton is right to highlight it but then he has been arguing the case for a better deal for so-called weaker counties for many years. Where are the supporting voices elsewhere?

Irish Independent

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