Kilkenny Football demise – where does the blame REALLY lie?
“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”
These immortal words attributed to Baron Pierre de Coubertin came to mind when hearing this week of the current ills in Kilkenny Gaelic football circles. As outlined by County Secretary Tommy O’Reilly in an interview in the ‘Irish Examiner’. Indeed the whole tone of the interview left readers wondering if there would be any Gaelic Football teams left in the county before long.
Tommy’s comments, honest though they be, certainly suggests that the Clubs do as they please and run roughshod over the County Board’s wishes but is that REALLY true? Six of last week’s seven League games in the county resulted in walk overs. Why, one wonders? Are the young guys in the county not at all interested in Gaelic Football? Or is not enough being done to encourage them? After all Kilkenny has a decent soccer team … despite the hurlers success so why not Gaelic football?
The County Secretary says : “”This year we lost the likes of Freshford and Carrickshock — Tullaroan didn’t submit a team last year.”
“Ballyhale Shamrocks were entered but then had to drop out because they couldn’t field a team.
“Last year we had 19 junior teams and now we’re down to about 12. The likes of Muckalee and Railway would have two teams, one in senior and junior, and it’s on them we’re relying on to keep the numbers up. If we lose another seven clubs next year I don’t know where we will be.”
Clubs, he says, are paying €1,000 to play in these fixtures and understandably considers ‘as a waste of money for them not to play them’
Clearly, the clubs are blamed for fact that in a “hurling county” football has made little strides, if any in recent years.
“The managers are the biggest problem,” O’Reilly is quoted as telling ‘The Examiner’ . “Clubs are making their own arrangements about fixtures, whether to play them or not, when it is the county board’s job to schedule games.
“The truth is we in the football and county boards, chairman Paul Kinsella, vice-chairman Pat Dunphy, myself and others, would nearly be the last to know if games are on or off.
“The county board will be asking questions of me about why so many games are walkovers and then our chairman Paul Kinsella will have to do the same up in Croke Park. We can only tell them the truth and that the clubs are responsible.”
So what do the Kilkenny GAA supporters think? Of those fans who ARE interested in Football, the view is very much that the blame lies with the County Board on two counts – one, that they have done ‘very little’ to promote the game in the county and two that they exercise little or no control over the clubs. Equally it must be said that since Kilkenny have dominated hurling for so long the Kilkenny fans are more than happy to concentrate on the hurlers. The subject of Kilkenny football weakness has been raised in fans forums for some years now and clearly the majority of fans have little or no interest in
the ‘big ball’ game. But the GAA as an organisation needs to look again at what IT can do to ensure that the young people in counties that are weak at football have more HQ support. Over many years there has been a significant interest in promoting Hurling in weaker counties and with some success … Kerry
being a good example.
What possible reason can there be for counties like Kilkenny – and several others –not having a similar level of success in Football? After all Kilkenny DID win the Leinster Senior Football championships three times in years gone by so its not as if they have never had any success?
Some of the suggestions made in Fans Forums include – a much larger sum of money being made available by the Kilkenny County Board to promote the game in schools and colleges; bringing in top Gaelic football coaches from outside the county for coaching sessions; ensuring that Kilkenny made use of
rules relaxation so that those who qualify to play for the County are made welcome albeit they may not have been born in Kilkenny.
KilkennyCats.com recently covered the top. Several fans like ‘Humdinger’ – though not football fanatics – genuinely want to see the game succeed and suggests:
1. Areas join together to form Divisional Teams to put forward one football team of players who actually wants to play.. like Danes fort, the bridge , or gown, Pauls town or ball hale and mulinavat…
2. like Dublin Colleges hurling teams, a combined Kilkenny colleges Football team.
3. reduce the number of cup games during the summer and play football when the Intercounty hurling season is in full swing …. just without intercounty players..
4. Introducing Hybrid Football games, Tag rugby has more than likely increased the numbers playing rugby in the country, some places play tag football like WIT Complex, basically the same skills used in both games but if that was pushed at schools levels you could increase participation levels in the full game.”
Another, “ AmberFan” , a former County player himself believes :
“Kilkenny football s biggest problem is its fixtures ,we had months of inactivity and then we have league games 2 and 3 weeks before the first round of club hurling,when we are playing hurling challenges to settle starting 15, when we were doing hard running in February we would love to have club football games under lights to help with training then when we have a 6 to 8 week break in the summer for inter county run, and no football played, if football is to have any hope in Kilkenny it has to work with the hurling not compete with it ,sit down at start of year and look for gaps of inactivity for club hurlers,as for the inter county team ,I played for a few years with kk at u21 and then senior and could honestly say we had better club football players than a lot of the panel ;being willing to travel should not qualify you to be an inter county footballer .sort out the fixture problem get guys back playing football and you will lift the standard.”
At least the County Board and the fans agree that the fixtures list is a major factor – could the GAA at HQ level not assist with some advice and even organise a meeting if need be to help resolve the issues? Seemingly not, since on the subject of fixtures congestion, Director-General Paraic Duffy said in a recent “Irish Times “ interview (not related to Kilkenny football):
“”I was at [a meeting] in Donegal the other night and I was asked by one of the guys there: ‘Why can’t Croke Park just dictate to each county how to run their club fixtures?’ And the answer is you can’t.
“The GAA is a national organisation in lots and lots of ways, but in some very important respects, it is not. And this is one of them. You’re working with 32 autonomous units and when it comes to something fundamental like club fixtures you have to accept that you have limited control. It is a frustration, definitely.
“You’re dependent on enlightened, strong leadership within each county and we all know that, in some counties, that’s just not there.”
There is much more that could be done to help football in Kilkenny, ok maybe we will not be seeing Kilkenny in a Leinster Football final for many, many years perhaps not even get out of Division 4 of the Allianz Football League but this is a time for strong leadership – and that means that the County Board
MUST take back full control of the Fixtures and MUST ensure that it spends a much greater proportion of income on promoting the game in the county. Whilst the GAA may well not be in a position to intervene in fixtures setting it certainly should get involved in ensuring that County Board do take full
responsibility for the ownership of and promotion of Football in the County. Tommy O’Reilly, was simply giving an ‘honest answer’ to the “Irish Examiner” but action speaks louder than words and the youth of Kilkenny do deserve better promotion of football. After all look at the successes of Cricket
in Ireland in recent years? Had there not been strong leadership it would have floundered years ago….. “Where there is a will, there is a way”
“The most important thing ……..is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”