Martin Breheny: Mount Leinster have done hurling a massive service
Fairytale success highlights Dunne stance on unfair democracy
IT was the hurling season that kept on giving to the very end. Oulart-The Ballagh won't exactly be overcome by its generosity after yet another fruitless attempt to crack Leinster for the first time, but what about Mount Leinster Rangers?
Their historic success last Sunday has done more for hurling in Carlow – and indeed beyond – than any high-powered promotional drive could ever achieve. And they may not be finished yet.
A shot at All-Ireland glory beckons in the spring and judging by the way their took Leinster, they are in with an excellent chance of beating Loughgiel Shamrocks and booking a place in the final on St Patrick's Day. After that, who knows?
It's natural to feel sympathy for Oulart, who keep having their application for Leinster success rejected, but it wouldn't have been nearly as big a story if they had won last Sunday. Wexford champions are always expected to do well in the Leinster campaign, whereas their Carlow equivalents are not.
Well, not in the past, but times are changing and now Mount Leinster Rangers have achieved something that sets them apart within Carlow and provides inspiration for clubs all over the country.
If MLR can defy the odds, why not us? If a club from a so-called weaker county can win a senior provincial title, why not us? That's exactly how other clubs will be feeling when they begin planning for next year.
To that end, MLR have done hurling a massive service, the benefit of which may not be immediately apparent but will accrue in time. They did it through hard work and an unyielding determination to succeed.
In fairness, their advance had been well-documented. Nonetheless, few thought they could go all the way in Leinster. Now that they have achieved that, it will be interesting to see how they react to the next challenge against a Loughgiel team that is much more experienced at this level.
There's also the interesting dimension of what impact this will have on Carlow hurling. It has made substantial progress in recent years and will surely be further encouraged by the success of its county champions, several of whom are on the Carlow team.
Unfortunately, Carlow will be campaigning in Division 2 of the NHL next year, having failed in their attempt to join the elite. Carlow and Westmeath wanted to be included in a 14-strong Division 1, but their proposal was rejected by Central Council.
Quite why that was the case remains a mystery. Carlow and Westmeath are allowed compete for the Liam MacCarthy Cup, yet other counties refused to allow them into Division 1 of the league. Self-interest was put ahead of the greater good, leaving Carlow and Westmeath isolated.
Wexford manager Liam Dunne suggested a few weeks ago that weaker hurling counties should not be allowed to vote in matters that had no direct bearing on them. Clearly, he wasn't talking about the likes of Carlow but rather those further down the line.
It was typical Dunne straight-talk, but he does have a point.
GAA president Liam O'Neill admitted this week that a few county officials conceded recently they would happily stay clear of senior inter-county action if they had their way.
They argued that with their playing base so low, it was a waste of resources to play in inter-county competitions and that instead the money should go to developing hurling at club and juvenile level. Cavan already do that, but there are now some others who are questioning the validity of their inter-county involvement.
It would be a very sad day indeed for hurling if a number of counties opted out of competition, but it now appears to be a distinct possibility.
Yet even if they did, they would still have the same voting rights in matters affecting the game as the strong hurling counties. For instance, Cavan had as much influence in the recent vote on National League structures as Carlow and Westmeath, who were battling for inclusion in Division 1.
Democracy is all very good, but it totally skews logic when delivering this type of anomaly. However, there's not the remotest chance of change as the right of every county to be treated equally on Central Council has long been a cornerstone of GAA policy. In hurling matters, though, that is not working. Not fairly anyway.
Carlow had to live with the disappointment of not getting into Division 1, where they would have relished testing themselves against the bigger powers, a challenge MLR took on with impressive conviction at club level. They succeeded too, and have now gone down as one of the fairytale stories of what has been an amazing hurling year. The immediate and longer-term benefit to Carlow hurling will be incalculable.
As for Oulart, why do the gods mock them so often?
O'Neill's idea worth pursuing
LIAM O'Neill's suggestion that counties should consider coming together in small groups to organise common sponsorship deals is an interesting proposition.
The bigger counties have enough drawing power to attract individual sponsors, but it can be much tougher down the line where the pickings aren't anywhere nearly as plentiful. Banding a few counties together might well increase the sponsorship take.
Mind you, it wouldn't be without its challenges, not least when it comes to dividing the pot. Still, it's an idea worth pursuing in these challenging financial times for all counties.
Terrestrial ties leave GAA missing out on the TV big bucks
We all know that the GAA cannot sell their prime TV championship packages to Sky Sports or any other subscription channel because of the uproar it would cause among the membership, so it has to be assumed their "nothing is ruled out or in" approach is a mere bargaining tool.
The trouble is, of course, that terrestrial channels know that's the position, which gives them a strong hand in negotiations. The ritual is acted out every few years and, in the end, RTE gets most of the top action. It will be the same this time because RTE suits the GAA and vice versa.
The money men in the GAA might love to do a deal with Sky but, for the present at least, they will have to shop local.
Of course, they could do a limited deal with Sky for a certain number of games, having already handed over their Saturday night Allianz League action to Setanta, which is also a subscription channel.