If only some Senior teams would play like the lesser lights
With club activity at its height once again over the weekend, my travels saw me take in both Intermediate 'A' and Junior hurling championship games.
For the majority of supporters all of the talk is of the clubs in the upper echelons gunning for glory and their right to stamp their authority on the top grades in particular.
Down the ranks the clubs may be looked upon as the lesser lights but they have an equal ambition to match that of the bigger guns. Looking at the games, gone was the frustrating tactic of the extra defender, the clogging of midfield with the majority of players, leaving at best two inside forwards, all of which makes for a boring, tactical game of nonsense, with little quality hurling to lift the hearts of supporters.
The drawn National League final was desperate stuff, the game destroyed into a battle around tactics, giving us a real endurance test with little free flowing hurling. While the players redeemed themselves in the replay, one can look forward to more of what was evident in the drawn game come the championship.
Now this has spread to the club scene with teams instantly setting up a defensive plan that simply destroys what should be a real game of hurling. Not alone are clubs ill-equipped to play to such a plan, they have not sufficient quality through the team to bring a real balance.
As a result the systems break down more often than not, leading to an error-ridden and frustrating 60 minutes, not just for players but also the paying supporter.
Given that the level of fitness would nowhere match that of inter-county, it makes it even more difficult for skilful players to express themselves. How long will club players perform to such systems before frustration sets in?
So far few quality games have been seen in the current club Senior hurling championship, all because the odds seem to be stacked against the players.
This brings me to the lower championship grades which I have covered over successive weekends. The quality and skilful hurling may be missing, but the fact that the teams played the conventional style of hurling, man-on-man, direct play, with no semblance of an extra defender, brought about its own excitement and drama.
The players were allowed to flourish, leading to some wonderful challenges, scores being picked off from all angles, and an abundance of goalmouth drama.
There is no way that the top tier sides would adapt such an approach given the managerial power that is present on the sideline, but a salutary lesson could still be learned, where a mix of the tactical plans with a direct style could pay richer dividends for many sides, who are simply lost in the tactical battle.
These teams may struggle to bring real style to their game but it's so heart-warming to see the smaller hurling clubs bring such an effort to their preparations and game. These players get the same joy from winning their championship outing as those of a higher level, but it's their traditional style of hurling which really gets the supporters involved.
You can see sides like Fethard, St. Patrick's and Tara Rocks bringing so much passion to their game. These are sides steered by systems within their own club. What's wrong with the lad inside your own club?
We have, at Senior and Intermediate levels, clubs paying extravagant fees to managerial personnel, many getting little reward or benefit for their hard-earned cash. But many clubs are not satisfied unless they hire into the system and pay someone to provide a service.
Look at the clubs. The majority of quality players now playing at adult level have fed through their very own under-age system, where they have been coached and trained to bring their game to another level.
In fact, if this can be achieved at under-age level it's difficult to understand why club personnel cannot steer their adult sides, particularly those at Senior and Intermediate level where foolish money is being spent on managerial personnel along with backroom support.
Having looked at the Intermediate 'A' and Junior games there is little rehearsed by many sides but their passion for the game has led to some cracking, well-contested games.