Limerick Club hurling needs a re-think
THE HURLING landscape is forever changing and results from last weekend ensured that for the first time ever no Leinster team will be involved in the All Ireland semi finals in August.
Three Munster teams have won right of passage and as it stands this years race for Liam McCarthy is still wide open.
What we do know is that current champions Tipperary are improving with every game while the likes of Waterford put their experience of the last three years into good effect.
Cork and Galway have been waiting in the wings now for a few weeks and such a wait has often proved costly for teams. With only four teams left standing in the championship it gives us a fair idea of where the rest of the teams are as of now.
From Limerick’s point of view we have slipped and slipped badly. We are struggling to keep up and in reality we are well down the pecking order. Clare gave us another example at the weekend that winning underage titles doesn’t count that much at senior level but at least they did enjoy a title win in 2013. Limerick have in the past enjoyed great success at U21 level but it failed to transfer into senior level.
Championship results are the only real data that stands up and while the outcome of games in the next few weeks will change the positions of the top teams right now this is how I rank the senior inter county hurling scene.
Galway have enjoyed a great season so far and they are entitled to be in at number 1, followed in no particular order by Cork, Tipperary, Waterford.
Clare, by the fact that they reached the quarter finals would sit at 5th place. From here on we have Kilkenny, Wexford, Limerick, Dublin and Offaly.
Some people might move teams around but no matter what way you look at it Limerick would still have to be ranked at number 8. It shows the challenge facing John Kiely and his management team. They lost to Clare and Kilkenny and both of those teams are now also gone from the championship.
The prospect of a major breakthrough will be difficult for Limerick but also getting out of Division 1B looks impossible at this stage.
Galway have enjoyed league and provincial success and even if they go onto win the All Ireland they will start next year's league in Division 1B.
Clubs are now feeling the effects of Limerick not doing well at senior level. One club in West Limerick told me last week that they are struggling to put teams together and that many of the young players will not have hurling at the top of their list.
“The battle to get young lads hurling is becoming very difficult. They are into many other sports now but if Limerick were doing well we might have some chance.” added one mentor.
I would think he was speaking for a lot of clubs in Limerick with those words. The game of hurling in Limerick at club level is not in a good place. I am looking at some clubs that will not be around in a few years time. Another club in the ‘West’ told me they have no U14,16, minor or U21 team. What future has that club?
You don’t have to go to West Limerick to find those problems. It’s the same in the other three divisions.
The GAA club as we knew it and the parish rule as we knew it has changed and will change further.
The smart clubs have seen the writing on the wall before now. They have made some moves to try and sustain what they have. Others have put their heads in the sand.
Readers of this opinion column will know that I am not slow to voice my concerns about leadership in this county.
Nothing has changed in that regard for years and I don’t see them changing anytime soon.
The clubs are the people with the power. They can force change and unless they get active and organised soon, both them and the county will be in a very poor state.
In particular the bigger clubs in the county must stand up.
Clubs like Kilmallock, Patrickswell, Na Piarsaigh, Doon, Adare and Ballybrown need to ask hard questions.
They can of course remain as they are. They can sit at County Board meetings and voice concerns about why Limerick are doing so badly at senior level or they can be progressive for the great good of Limerick hurling.
These clubs and others have to take part of the blame. They must hold the people in charge to account. Clubs have sat back, they have taken the excuses and have allowed, in my opinion, very poor decisions to be rubber stamped.
I have Limerick ranked eighth and that’s because they are just not good enough right now.
Will that change in the near future? I simply don’t know. They might move a place or two but over all the other teams seem to be far more advanced than Limerick.
Changes need to be made to the local championship and that might mean getting rid of the Intermediate championship.
Reduce the teams playing senior and that will lead to a strong Premier hurling championship.
It would also mean that the Junior hurling championship could see much needed improvement. Better games develop players.
Again I would ask why we can't allow to a max of two players from Intermediate and Junior clubs play with their next nearing senior club.
hese players should be allowed hold their status with their own club. Players are being lost to the game and those with some talent will never improve without playing at a higher level.
The entire championship program needs to be looked at. Hurlers should be playing with their clubs now, but instead, we have a closed season. This is hurting players and clubs.
The message this week is pretty simple. If we don’t improve the standard of Limerick club hurling we will have little chance of eating at the championship table in August and for sure in September.
Club officers have a responsibility to ask questions of those driving Limerick GAA. I know many club officers are working really hard but please empower your club for the good of hurling and the good of Limerick GAA.
During the course of this year Limerick GAA has lost some great people. It was with great sadness on Monday that I received a call to tell me that Oola man Willie Burns had passed away.
Willie gave superb service to his club but also the county as a referee. I first met Willie Burns at a referees course many years ago. He was hugely interested and always made himself available to clubs and the County Board.
Football was his passion, his Club Oola meant a huge amount to him and he gave many years of dedicated service.
The job of the referee was never easy and in many ways it has become even more difficult. The role they play is sometimes taken for granted, Willie Burns was fair, honest and always showed respect to the players.
He won many friends as a result of those principles. The final whistle has blown for Willie and to his family, his club and his friends I offer my sincere sympathy.