Westside Column 16 May 2014

 

Seldom has the gap in standards among our senior hurling teams been so nakedly exposed.

The new structure in the county has certainly laid bare some stark realities. Already we saw Cashel K.C. and Cappawhite being hit by massive margins and now Boherlahan has joined the company after being pummelled by Drom in the Mid series at the weekend. Indeed Sarsfields’ stroll against Upperchurch was yet another mis-match affair.

Margins of thirty-two and even thirty-eight points are rare in hurling – Waterford did something similar to Offaly in a weekend challenge. However, when you get a sequence of these results it tends to shine an unwelcome spotlight on the state of our club competition.

Several clubs are in trouble. The desire to cling to senior status is deep-rooted and passionate. Parishes see it as a badge of honour, in many cases upholding a long tradition. All of that is understandable though there comes a time when reality has to be faced. Subjecting players to humiliating defeats does nothing to promote the club’s interests.

Boherlahan’s defeat by Drom made for sad viewing on Sunday at Templetuohy. There was no immediate surge by the winners but by half time they’d slipped ten points clear and in the second period it became an absolute whitewash. Callanan and company eventually hit six goals to supplement a lot of points. Even more humbling for the losers were the three paltry points they managed in reply. In fairness their best forward, Darragh Hickey, was missing but that hardly accounts for such a drubbing.

Drom were in an entirely different league to their opponents and the only negative was that they hadn’t the generosity to withdraw the likes of Callanan and Woodlock when it had all gone so skewed early in the second half.

It wasn’t quite as lopsided between Upperchurch and Sarsfields but this was no even contest either. The ‘Church would be rated quite a decent outfit but they were left floundering by Sars’. 2013 was a write-off year for the ‘Blues but keep an eye on them this season. They looked sharp and motivated on Sunday as they outmanoeuvred their opponents at will.

The absence of a goal was perhaps a negative on the Thurles ledger but when you have a fluid flow of points why bother. Underage success has meant that the supply lines are productive so there’s hurling quality throughout the side. With James Barry being kept reasonably subdued for Upperchurch it was all very slick from Sars.

The late introduction of Lar Corbett was an item of interest and watching Pa Bourke reminded me that he’s become the forgotten man of Tipperary hurling. Of course he had a poor championship last season but when you think of the volume of players we tried this spring he can certainly feel hard done by being omitted. We persevered with worse forwards for much of the league.

The third Mid game I saw at the weekend had the merit of being tight but it was certainly no showpiece. Bracken’s and Holycross slugged out a close contest that eventually tilted the way of the Abbeysiders. The winners had a bit more drive, I felt, and more scoring potential than a very disappointing Templemore team. Goalie, John Ferncombe, did an Anthony Nash for Holycross for the game’s critical score. Shane Bourke was very disappointing for Bracken’s and Colin O’Riordan didn’t do much on Cathal Barrett either apart from a few spectacular aerial fetches in the second half. Eamon Corcoran was once again one of the steadiest on the losing team.

In other games at the weekend Eire Og Annacarty pulled off a fine win over Toomevara in the county series. This one took many by surprise but it seems the West side brought their ‘A’ game to the task with Brian Fox and Ronan O’Brien being singled out for special mention. It resurrects Eire Og’s county series and perhaps offers further evidence of Toome’s slippage.

That Eire Og group in the county series is one of the most interesting with everything hinging on the final round of games where Annacarty play Moycarkey and Loughmore face Toome.

On the relegation front it looks like Cashel and Cappawhite will, barring a miracle, be in the mix. However, not even a miracle will save Ballinarry by my calculation. Even if the South side manages to beat Ballina in their final game the best they can achieve is to finish level with either Mullinahone or Borrisokane but since they’ve already lost to both those sides they lose any tie-breaker. That defeat to Borrisokane last week was very costly.

The fourth relegation spot rests between Kickhams and Davins in group one. A draw will suffice for Kickhams because their score difference is vastly superior so that really is going to be a crunch tie whenever it takes place.

Ominously then the West and South are in the relegation firing line. On present evidence there are five or six teams who would be better off in the intermediate grade but despite those heavy defeats I don’t expect any volunteers for the drop. Sorting our senior structure is going to be a slow process.

A week after the league final defeat and the dust has settled on the event with more sober reflection picking the positives from a Tipperary perspective. We’re comforting ourselves with the notion that victory would have sent the hype into overdrive and this way at least everything is kept grounded in the build up to the Limerick championship opener. We do tend to get carried away so perhaps it’s better this way. Well, at least I’ll try to convince myself.

It has been a strange spring with all the ups and downs. At least at the end of it all we seemed to have stabilised matters. Naming the same selection for the final as the semi-final was new ground for the management and surely a sign that some sort of equilibrium had been reached.

RTE launched its championship coverage last weekend with Brendan Cummins and Dara O’Shea being added to the list of pundits. It’s going to be an interesting season for the broadcaster with the much-anticipated entry of Sky sure to add variety whatever your views on pay-per-view.

Incidentally I watched RTE’s review of the league final with some interest. Here was the final of hurling’s second competition, a game of considerable quality being won in the last seconds of extra time after a titanic tussle between two of the game’s heavyweights. It was incident packed with high drama throughout, an event surely that television would relish.

Yet what did we get? Superficial analysis with nothing of substance being provided – a lame-duck presentation that totally under-sold the event. There was one cursory reference to a point that was actually wide but otherwise all the salient events of the game were ignored. If this is the level of coverage we can expect from RTE then bring on Sky.

 

 

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