In my previous blog I went odds on for no All-Ireland to be played in 2020, but a couple of weeks on and things are looking a little more positive in Ireland. The GAA President John Horan spoke very well on recent Sunday Game programme, but some GAA folk – myself included – were scratching our heads as he seemed to take a step back from recent road map outlined by the government.
I honestly believe if he had been interviewed this week, he might come across a little more positive.
Peoples Health is the primary concern in this pandemic, but maybe, just maybe we might see some GAA action.
John Kiely, Liam Sheehy and Davy Fitzgerald have all stated in recent weeks, that while players health must come first, they are fully behind a Championship in whatever shape it takes.
In Liam Sheehy’s own words any Championship is better than none. Another positive is county boards putting together restructured club championships. Take Wexford for example they have stated they can run their senior championship off in five weeks and other county boards are likely to follow their lead on this.
It sends a clear message to the powers that be that given a green light players and management are ready to go.
So, let’s look at a winter Championship based on the knowledge we now have that it won’t start till October, if it is to happen. It’s worth mentioning first from my experience hurling is a totally different ball game in the winter.
I was never a big fan, I loved nothing more than the clocks changing and the smell of freshly cut grass with the ball bouncing on the top of the ground.
Physiologically it can have a big impact on certain individuals. Some horses like soft ground, some like it hard and have no doubt GAA players are the same.
It could turn out to be an ideal situation for the Cats. Kilkenny teams can mix it both ways and their record in the National League and Championship speaks for itself.
Kilkenny had an incredible clean sweep of Club All-Irelands this year and players like Colin Fennelly and TJ Reid, while not getting any younger, will have benefited from the current enforced break. Also Kilkenny picked up a couple of injuries to key players in the League, so extra time will give them a chance to recover.
Brian Cody will be a calming influence in this current crisis, and it will give him a chance to rest and re-charge his batteries for the challenges ahead.
Wexford showed this year in the National League that they are putting together a panel good enough to win an All-Ireland and that’s on the back of an agonising defeat to eventual All-Ireland champions Tipperary last year.
The win against Kilkenny in this year’s League was particular impressive. Down by a point playing into a gale in the second half, they unleashed Mathew O Hanlon, Diarmuid O Keefe and Lee Chin off the bench and managed to win the game.
They also dug out a win against Dublin with 13 men, so there is a real steel building in this team and having played under Davy Fitzgerald they will be ready. It won’t make a difference if the stands are empty.
The Treaty men can play in any conditions as proven by last year’s League win, and obviously, their recent All-Ireland victory.
Their win ratio in the last 18 months is incredible and let’s be honest, but for a terrible decision in the final seconds of last year’s All-Ireland semi-final they could have been back-to-back champions. John Kiely works off a win at all cost mentality and he has the panel to pick and choose his team.
If you’re not playing well he will not hesitate in making a change and that type of strength in depth could be crucial in the demands of winter hurling and a cramped fixture list. They are an incredible team and will be raring to go.
Liam Sheehy staying on was crucial for this Tipp team in their quest for two-in-a-row. As mentioned earlier he has been very vocal on the Championship taking place and the lift it would give the whole country.
Father time is catching up on some of his star players, namely Brendan Maher, Padraic Maher and Seamus Callanan. Each have been incredible players for their county and they will be anxious about the time passing. But, on the back of last year’s exertions, it may be a blessing in disguise in terms of prolonging there inter county careers.
Tipperary have had some incredible Under 21 and Under 20 talent in recent years and no doubt Liam has three or four in mind for this year. Jake Morris is a potential star forward and the extra months will do his physical development no harm.
The last game they played in the National League against Tipperary remains fresh in my mind. The second half performance in which they blew Tipp off the field in wintry conditions was a reminder to all that this Galway team have not gone away.
The Tribesmen were very unlucky to exit the Championship on the final day of last year’s Leinster round robin and they can draw a line through that now. Under new management and with the forced break this year, they will come into a winter Championship fresh on the back of recent years.
Galway have the players, the strength in depth and the physicality to cope with hurling in October. Also any team with Joe Canning will always have a chance.
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