Thursday 18 January 2018

That was then...

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Six counties have been targetted for future hurling development but, as Martin Breheny points out, none have built on their success of the past

At least one from Antrim, Down, Westmeath, Laois, Kerry and Carlow will, according to the ambitious targets set out in a special development plan, reach an All-Ireland senior hurling quarter-final, and maybe even a semi-final, inside the next decade.

It tends to be forgotten that over the last 30 years most of them were, at various stages, operating at a much higher level than is currently the case.

So what happened? Why wasn't that the starting base to drive on?

Down: Historic win over All-Ireland champions

On Sunday, 21 March 1993, Down travelled to Nowlan Park to play All-Ireland champions Kilkenny in Division 1 of the Allianz League.

Kilkenny wheeled out most of their 1992 All-Ireland winning team and led by 1-7 to 1-4 at half-time but lost 1-12 to 1-11 in a thrilling finish. The result sentenced Kilkenny to relegation while Down qualified for the quarter-finals.

Two weeks earlier, Down had lost narrowly to Tipperary but the win over Kilkenny saw them finish second to Tipp, with three wins from five games. Antrim finished third, trailed by Limerick, Kilkenny and Offaly.

It was no fluke campaign by Down. A year earlier, they finished in fourth place in 1A, ahead of Offaly and Laois. They also won the 1992 Ulster title and finished the season with a first All Star award when Gerard McGrattan was chosen at right half-forward.

In 1991, Down won five of seven games in Division 2 to finish joint second with Leinster champions Offaly. They beat Offaly in the group games but lost in a play-off rematch for promotion and a quarter-final place.

Westmeath: holding their own against the big guns

In 1985/86, Westmeath won six of seven games in a Division 2 which included Tipperary, who they beat, Wexford and Antrim.

It earned Westmeath a quarter-final clash which they lost by just two points to a Kilkenny team that included four Fennellys, two Hendersons, Richie Power, Christy Heffernan, Joe Hennessy and Billy Fitzpatrick.

In November 1986, Westmeath beat All-Ireland runners-up Galway in a league game in Loughrea, and later that month David Kilcoyne was chosen as the Lake County's first -- and only -- All Star.

Laois: all so different to the 1980s and 1990s

In 1984, Laois beat Limerick, Tipperary and Galway to reach the final of the Centenary Cup (a special pre-championship competition to mark the GAA's 100th anniversary).

They lost the final to Cork but it was some achievement for Laois to beat the other trio.

In 1985, Laois beat Wexford to reach the Leinster final for the first time in 34 years but lost to Offaly, who went on to win the All-Ireland title.

In 1997, Laois ran Offaly to a point in the Leinster championship; a year later they led Kilkenny by three points with six minutes remaining in the Leinster semi-final but were beaten by three points.

In 2005, they beat Dublin by 12 points in the Leinster quarter-final; in 2009 they ran Limerick to three points in the All-Ireland qualifiers.

That's all in marked contrast to 2011 and 2012, where Laois lost three championship games to Cork, Dublin and Limerick by a combined total of 84 points.

Kerry: Kingdom confirm meyler's prediction in walsh park

"We'll be playing you in a fortnight," Kerry manager John Meyler told Tipperary boss 'Babs' Keating when they met in a Dungarvan hotel the night before the Kingdom's first-round Munster championship clash with Waterford in May 1993.

The following day, Meyler's words were borne out as Kerry beat Waterford by 4-13 to 3-13. A Waterford team that included Stephen Frampton, Damien Byrne, Sean Cullinane, Fergal Hartley, Noel Crowley, Liam O'Connor, Brian Greene, Billy O'Sullivan and debutant Paul Flynn (he scored 3-2) were stunned by Kerry's determined effort, which saw them recover from a five-point deficit after 20 minutes to win by three.

Kerry lost the semi-final to Tipperary and the hoped-for impetus from the Waterford win never developed.

Antrim: two huge performances in just three seasons

Antrim's nine-point (4-15 to 1-15) win over Leinster champions Offaly in the 1989 All-Ireland semi-final under the guidance of manager Jim Nelson (left) is still recalled as one of the biggest championship upsets.

Offaly, 1/6 favourites, led by four points at half-time but lost the second half by 3-9 to 0-5 as Antrim reached the All-Ireland final for the first time since 1943.

Two years later, Antrim ran Kilkenny, who went on to win the title, to two points in the semi-final.

Carlow: a work in progress

They haven't had the wonder result of most of their others in this group. They have made progress in recent years so working within the development plan will benefit them.

Irish Independent

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