Sunday 22 September 2019

No time to rest as club scene looms large for all players

Alan Aherne
Alan Aherne

On The Line with Alan Aherne

Well, that wasn't a weekend of sport we'll remember with any great fondness now, was it?

On Friday three of our inter-county teams were still in contention for All-Ireland honours, but their ambitions were firmly blown out of the water and there was a collective losing margin of 24 points.

That's comprehensive in anyone's language, but in the case of the Senior hurlers there's nobody who can really say that they didn't see it coming.

Last time out we were given no chance, but the players took almost everyone by surprise with the quality of their performance and their unstinting desire to get over the line.

Practically all forecasters may have been wrong on that occasion, but they were right this time around as Waterford gave a clear indication of how far they have evolved since we dumped them in Nowlan Park two seasons ago.

I don't find their system particularly attractive, but every team simply wants to win and a manager is entitled to set them up in what he perceives to be the manner best guaranteed to bring results.

I will be very interested to see if they tweak it in any way though for their second successive semi-final clash with Kilkenny.

We may have tried to erase it from the memory banks, but most of us will remember that absolutely dire football game between Dublin and Donegal in 2011 which ended on an 0-8 to 0-6 scoreline.

Jim McGuinness realised there and then that he had to alter things here and there to give his team a more attacking edge, and the rewards were there for all to see the following year.

Now all eyes will be on Derek McGrath to see if he will follow a similar path. There's absolutely no way that I can see Waterford scoring goals against the Cats, or anyone else for that matter, if they stick rigidly to Sunday's formation.

And by the same token, while they hit the 20-plus points tally I mentioned last week, they're also chalking up an astronomical number of wides because so much of their shooting is done from distance due to the absence of an orthodox full-forward line.

It's impossible to envisage a team beating Kilkenny without scoring a goal in this day and age, so surely that must be the challenge now for McGrath and company.

More to the point, what about an analysis of where we now lie ourselves in the hurling world? Well, I think it's important to let the dust settle first this week and give the players a chance to switch the focus back to their clubs. I hope the knife-sharpeners feel the same way, although I wouldn't be too sure.

It isn't easy on our hurlers having to turn around straight away to play important games on the domestic scene when they will be expected to be the leading lights for their respective teams.

Some would argue that it's better to get back up on the horse as soon as possible so to speak, and the club scene will help rather than hinder the county men.

I'm not so sure though, and on that note I have particular sympathy for the Minors who were due to line out with their clubs in District Under-21 games last night (Monday).

Another large batch of them will be in Premier championship action this evening, but it's not a wonderful advertisement for player welfare in my view.

Equally, because of those Under-21 outings, the traditional Tuesday night adult training will be ruled out for many clubs who will only see their full squad together once towards the end of the week in advance of potentially crucial encounters spanning Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

It's important to note of course that none of this is a result of a dictatorial approach by the C.C.C.C. or any District committee.

The fact of the matter is that the clubs democratically decide how and when to run our championships, so anybody complaining would be well served remembering how their own outfit voted.

It would appear that these matters aren't considered in enough depth before decisions are taken though, and it's always the players who suffer the consequences at this time of year.

Wexford People

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