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Mon 27-Jun-2005 0:08
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Meath's Hurling Farce
Referees Martin Bartley and Fergus Smyth cut lonely figures on the playing fields of Longwood and Kiltale in the county of Meath last week. This was because they were more or less the only people present on the two fields due to the ongoing and worsening crisis in Meath hurling.
St Peter’s Dunboyne, Kilmessan and Trim all refused to field on Wednesday evening, and rightly so, and while Clanna Gael took to the field at Longwood and recorded a hollow ‘victory’ over Dunboyne, all they did was add more fuel to a worsening blaze and raise the ire of those trying to sustain hurling in the county.
The dispute basically centres around hurlers rights’ and the fact that seventeen of Johnny Murray’s county senior side, from the three clubs who didn’t field, were being asked to play club championship games just three days before Murray’s men were to tackle Derry in their second Christy Ring Cup tie. Instead, Longwood’s game was called off because Mickey Burke is a sub on the Meath senior football team who were not due to play until at least ten days after the appointed date for the hurling fixtures.
I was in Longwood where the Dunboyne game was meant to take place and I’m saddened to report that we as a club were subjected to some rather nasty comments regarding our loyalty to the small ball game. Though as bad as that was, the county committee meeting which followed later that night plunged into total farce when Chairman Fintan Ginnity and/or Secretary Barney Allen were repeatedly asked to resign and chose to abandon the meeting as the pressure was seemingly getting to them!
Sadly, I feel the situation in Meath is only symbolic of a problem which seems to be seeping into hurling, and indeed that GAA in general. There can be no doubting that Kilkenny seem to be streets ahead of the rest of the hurling world and, while it’s no fault of theirs, the lack of competition in the game could be fatal for hurling in the long run.
Realistically, Cork, and at a push Waterford, present the only challenge to the Cats and, if anything, the rest of the pack seem to be slipping further adrift rather than closing the gap. The past few weeks have seen Offaly, the grand old battlers of the GAA, be on the end of serious hidings from Waterford and Kilkenny.
And almost on cue, the stories of unrest in the camp have emerged with it being rumoured, and denied, that five players had been axed from the squad but regardless of whether anyone was dropped or not it must say that there is something wrong in the camp and with Offaly having a smaller pick than most counties one wonders how much further the crisis is going to go and what, if any, remedy may be available.
I said earlier that the problem also seems to be on its way into football as events in Roscommon during the week would seem to indicate. And like Offaly, it’s not the time there was unrest in the area and there seems to be no quick fix solution to it either. The one thing both cases have in common is that those concerned are slipping further and further away from the rest and this must be a worry as our championships become less and less competitive.
Despite all their earlier travails, Meath hurlers managed to snatch a respectable draw on Saturday in their Christy Ring Cup game against Derry. This followed an earlier trouncing of once proud hurling county, Westmeath. It makes you wonder what they might achieve if they got even a quarter of a chance from the football dominated county board …
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