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19 November 2009 Edition

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More than a game BY MATT TREACY

Wrangling in hurling

THE inter-county closed season has seen the usual spate of internal wrangling and players’ heaves against managers.
Justin McCarthy of Limerick possibly got his retaliation in first by announcing wholesale changes to the senior hurling panel which included the dropping of several established names. The fact that only enough players turned up for a trial game to play 12-a-side last week does not, however, augur well for his chances and he is likely to come under pressure to resign or be replaced over the coming weeks.
In Clare, Mike McNamara endured the indignity of having all but one of the senior panel (his own son) sign a letter calling for him to step down. He appears reluctant to do so and this has raised the prospect of the players following in the boots of the Cork hurlers last year and refusing to play. The fact that Clare will be in Division Two – which will be competitive enough at the top with Wexford, Antrim and Carlow – means that they cannot afford to field a weakened side as that would almost certainly destroy any chance of being promoted back into the top flight.
The malaise that is currently afflicting Limerick and Clare – and there is angst in a number of the other leading counties as well – reflects their frustration at a period where Kilkenny continue to threaten to dominate with only Tipperary apparently possessing both the mentality and the capability of taking them on next year.

GALWAY hurling has been preoccupied of late with an absorbing county championship and winners Portumna are favourites to win the club all-Ireland but the fall-out from this year’s all-Ireland quarter-final defeat by Waterford has not gone away, nor yet been fully dealt with. A team which (a bit like the Dublin footballers) has been spoken of for the past four years as leading contenders but which fails to deliver accumulates a psychological burden that is not easy to offload.
Galway need something extra to put themselves up there and it is not apparent where that will come from. Nor can they continue to rely on certain individuals to take up the slack.
There is little noise emanating from Tipp.
Liam Sheedy’s drafting in of several minor and under-21 players has been greeted well and despite the disappointment of losing the final they will be in good shape to make another challenge in 2010.
Having sorted out the managerial issue and absorbed a certain change over in players, Cork are at least in a position to rebuild but their ambitions may lie no higher than that next year and are reflected in their 12/1 quote to win the All-Ireland and 9/2 to win Munster.

WATERFORD retrieved their pride this year and if they can manage to replenish the team with some fresh legs and faces then they can look forward with optimism to 2010, with a Munster semi-final against crisis-ridden Clare a nice opening in the championship. It will be interesting then to see what sort of teams Fitzgerald puts out in the league.
Offaly are back in Division One and the mini-revolution that has occurred at club level, with Tullamore building on their first county in decades to reach the Leinster final, could add extra impetus to what has been a quietly impressive rebuilding of the team under Joe Dooley. Offaly hurlers don’t do psychological crises: they just get on with things and could be a team to watch next year.
Dublin, likewise, are in a good place and will be boosted by the decision of Anthony Daly to remain on for at least another two years. They do need, though, to step up again and are one of the few teams to perhaps be in a position to make a good run at the league with ambitions aimed higher than simply surviving. They face Kilkenny in the Leinster semi-final – assuming they beat the winners of Laois and Carlow – and while that is a formidable ask it is one that they need to approach with the attitude that they can win.

FINALLY, on another parochial note, the ‘Barrs of Cabra – who are up there with Joeys as the most popular club in Dublin! – take on Black and Whites of Kilkenny in the Leinster junior hurling final on Sunday 29th. They are managed by Nicky Kehoe and carry the best wishes even of those who still carry other marks sustained up in the Bogies!

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