independent

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Don't mess with the club championships at All-ireland level

email: brendan.furlong@peoplenews.ie

ANY EFFORT to tamper with the All-Ireland Club hurling and football championships should be wiped off the blackboard straight away.

Over recent days there have been suggestions on the movement of the championships to the calendar year, but also to carry out any further rules experiments in club games, before deciding if they should be introduced to inter-county level.

New President Liam O'Neill has been brought into an early debate, but to have the All-Ireland Club championships completed within the calendar year would leave the county championships in disarray. With counties already finding it difficult to have their championships completed to have their sides in the provincial title race, to suggest that the championship should be completed within the calendar year would cause chaos in the club scene, particularly as it has already become increasingly difficult to play championship games given the demands on the inter-county front.

Needless to say, any tinkering with the club championship would be a retrograde step as this has been one of the success stories of the G.A.A., bringing out huge crowds to go along with excellent games in both hurling and football. The parish is the lifeblood of the G.A.A. and it's the club championship that recognises that identity and how important it is to the Association as they continue to have hurling and football highlighted as the number one sports in every parish and town.

When there are nudges and whispered talk regarding the club championship and how it could be utilised for the benefit of the Associaition, it's time for the clubs to act. Right now they are talking of having the championship completed within a calendar year which is not feasible under the current packed fixture structure, but what's just as important is the possible tinkering with the championship as an experimental base before deciding should the fit suit the inter-county scene. Indeed, that is even more worrying.

The warning is there. Clubs should now stand up as county Convention time approaches, sending a clear signal to keep their hands off what has been the most successful venture in the proud history of the G.A.A. Going back on the records one can see the family connections, and the many sets of brothers who have lined out together, not just on their local county grounds, but also on the big stage in Croke Park. That's what the club championship is all about, uniting club, families and parishes, as they seek to become the number one club in the country.

Now that the provincial title race is already under way, the Wexford Senior champions should be ideally prepared to have a real push for glory. For some strange reason Wexford have been unable to stamp an authority on the provincial and All-Ireland club scene. Buffers Alley still stand out alone as the only club to bring an AllIreland Senior hurling title back to the Model county, while the great Rathnure teams of old tasted provincial glory but failed to get that deserved All-Ireland title.

Wexford football clubs are still unsure of their ability to mix it with the champions of other counties. Now St. Anne's have an opportunity to push their claim when they travel to take on the Longford champions, Emmet Og, on Sunday next. They turned in a devastating display in the county final where they outclassed a highlyrated Castletown outfit. A repeat of that display alone would leave them with a real chance of progressing a long way in their quest for provincial glory.

The following Sunday, hurling kingpins Oulart-TheBallagh take on the Dublin champions, Kilmacud Crokes, in Parnell Park, which is no easy assignment.

Both St. Anne's and Oulart-The Ballagh have pushed on in their preparations since their county successes. Let's hope they can move on to give the Model county a new-found status in the provincial club title race. Both sides have the ability, and more importantly have shown the commitment over recent weeks to change what has been a disappointing record for Wexford clubs in recent years.

Best of luck to St. Anne's on Sunday and Oulart-The Ballagh seven days later.

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