Saturday 20 January 2018

Have your say: Cats not alone in paying lip service

John Greene's comments [Mar 6] remind me of a conversation I had with a Monaghan man at a wedding a few years ago. He was in his fifties and he was an authority on Monaghan football going back decades.

From what I could gather, there was hardly a player who wore the county jersey in the past 50 years that he was not familiar with.

When he found out I was from Kilkenny, he commiserated with me and said what a pity it was that we couldn't put in more of an effort in football. I pointed out that we're not too bad at hurling but he just brushed that off and said again how sad it was that we couldn't improve at football. I then asked him about the Monaghan hurlers and he just looked at me blankly. He was unable to tell me how they were doing or even what division they were in.

I find this attitude typical of some really staunch GAA people in some of the traditional football counties. A lot of these people seem to see hurling as an exotic game that you look at a couple of times a year on tv and then forget about. In their minds, football is the 'real' game.

They have a mental block about understanding that, in Kilkenny, the opposite is the case. Our county has little interest in football and is the only county in Ireland to feel that way to such an extent. Unlike any other county, there is no mainly football area in Kilkenny and so the sport has no natural base. Short of forcing certain areas to give up hurling and concentrate on football instead, this is not going to change any time soon.

Of course it is not nice to see Kilkenny going down by such embarrassing scores in Division 4 of the NFL. However, if you are going to make comparisons with the NHL, it is only fair that you get your facts straight and not try to compare "apples and pears". There are at least ten counties in Ireland (at a conservative estimate) currently paying no more than lip service to hurling in the same way that Kilkenny do with football. The difference is that they all have each other to play against and so few hammerings ensue.

I have great admiration for the few dedicated people keeping the game alive in these counties but their efforts only disguise the fact that their county boards have little interest in hurling. It is convenient for them to point at the scorelines and say we are competitive "at our level". Let any of these teams line out against a Division 2 hurling team, let alone a Division 1 team, and carnage would be the result.

Meanwhile, look at the teams Kilkenny have to play in Division 4 football. Roscommon (Connacht champions), Wicklow and Longford (winners against Division 1 teams in the championship over the last two years) and Fermanagh (very competitive in the Ulster championship the last few years). Even Limerick, within a score of beating both Cork and Kerry last year, played in Division 4 recently. Clearly the gap between Division 1 and Division 4 football teams is minute compared to the same levels in hurling.

My point is that Kilkenny are a genuine Division 4 team like those in the hurling but they simply have no-one to play at their own level. That is not a requirement for Division 3 or Division 4 hurling teams which is the big difference.

I could suggest that Kilkenny contact counties like Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford and tell them to stop doing so much work on football. Eventually they would come back down closer to Kilkenny's level and Kilkenny would automatically be more competitive. Obviously that would be a nonsense. However, it is no less nonsensical that you credit the likes of Leitrim, Longford, Cavan and Fermanagh for their efforts in hurling when the exact same situation arises.

I have no solution for what Kilkenny should do about football, I have simply presented a few facts. As I said, there is no natural football area in Kilkenny and too few people really care about the game. Every other county's senior team is backboned by players from football areas, however small, in their respective counties. Kilkenny does not have this possibility.

Your suggestion that Kilkenny's participation in the hurling championship be "curtailed" until they improve the football situation is ridiculous. Why should a bunch of amateur players be prevented from playing the game they love until such time as sufficient numbers of players in the same county are forced/cajoled to play a game they simply don't love? Also, why should Kilkenny footballers have to reach a level of competitiveness that is not required of any team in the bottom two divisions of the NHL?

I have to say I was very disappointed to read such an unbalanced article which shows a complete misunderstanding of the relative health of the games of hurling and football.

Diarmuid Grace

Sunday Indo Sport

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