3 questions for Championship 2015.as

GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final

Hello everyone!

So Championship 2015 is well underway, with Limerick taking the first of the spoils in Munster and Dublin and Galway giving us another day out in Leinster. Both games were similar, very close and a slow burn. We’ve had drama with Patrick Donnellan’s sending off and questions being raised over the new advantage rule. However, there were more pressing issues that have kept people talking  lately…

1. Will Clare get that elusive win?

So another year has gone by, and Claire have failed to mount a serious challenge in the Munster championship. They are out of the frame now and will have to go on a ‘Discover Ireland’ qualifier route. They are no strangers to it, in fact they went all the way in 2013, through the back door. Clare are a young team, and armed with a plan and hunger are still seriously dangerous. The question however, is whether or not their plan is effective enough to win another All Ireland, is it adaptable enough to deal with whatever other teams throw at them?  Another issue is injuries, Clare have worries over vital players such as Conor McGrath and Conor Ryan, and are very much reliant on the services of Tony Kelly and Shane O’ Donnell to cause defenses trouble, if they can iron out these problems, they could find themselves hurling in August and September. They only lost their last two games by a point so they are not too far away.

2. Where are Galway?

It is the question that has preceded hurling championships for the last decade or so, and there is no sign of it going away anytime soon . Yesterday was a perfect example of the enigmatic nature of the Tribesman. The Sunday Game panel brought up the view that hurling people have given up trying to assess Galway, that they were too inconsistent, and that Dublin ,who were also accused of the same charge, were fancied to beat them. Low and behold though, Galway storm out of the traps, all guns blazing and gave a solid performance. Now it was nowhere near what they are capable of, but they showed up and were merited a draw. A new development was the dismissal of the old tale that Galway without Joe Canning were hollow. Joe had perhaps his worst performance in a Galway shirt yesterday, and while that is unlikely to happen again. it did at least allow the likes of Joe Cooney and Cathal Mannion to flourish. Galway are more than a one trick pony, and they proved that yesterday, but they are also at a crossroads, do they build on yesterday and try and mount a serious challenge on their adopted province?, or do they descend into the wilderness again? As always, it’s impossible to know…

3. Waterford’s prospects.

I can only imagine the week Waterford fans had at the beginning of May, The Sunday saw the county claim a first League title since 2007, the spirits were high, a September appearance was beginning to look more than a pipe dream, and then….news that Padraic Mahony, Waterford’s distinguished free-taker and talisman broke his leg in a club match. A massive blow for not just his club, but possibly his county. Or is it? Now there is no doubt he will be missed. Waterford had shown throughout their league campaign that the next generation is just as talented as the previous one, Players such as Tadhg De Burca, Shane Bennett and Austin Gleeson are exciting new players who have brought freshness and vitality into the squad. Any team that wants to be successful needs these players but also needs ready replacements should anything happen. For example, in his later years, if Henry Shefflin was injured, Brian Cody made sure his absence wasn’t detrimental to the panel by having Tj Reid as an automatic replacement. In order to have a strong squad, even your best players must be indispensable. Waterford will need to do the same in the absence of Mahony, which they are well capable of doing.

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A Salute To A King.

Henry Shefflin.

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015, seems like such an ordinary day on paper, middle of the week, two days to the weekend, whatever you want to call it, but around these parts, where the clash of the caman and sliotar can be heard from Ballyragget, Ballyhale and Castlecomer, it was also the day the greatest hurler, no scratch that, the greatest Irish sportsperson, hung up his hurl.

Henry Shefflin, master of his art, warrior of his people, was not only  the heartbeat of his team, he was the heartbeat of all Kilkenny supporters. A lot has been said and written about Henry this past week, journalists, managers, past and current players have lauded so much superlatives onto Henry, I would be surprised if there was any left. However, I think it is important that a member of the Kilkenny hurling public write a tribute to Henry, to try put into words the pride of simply knowing who he was, and what he achieved.

I’m 21 years old, which would have made me 5 in 1999, when Henry  was brought into the panel, which was not a good age to pass a comment on his hurling potential! It was only until 2006, until I finally began to notice how special he was. Like DJ had to fill the boots of Eddie Keher, Henry had to do the same for DJ. Who was it that said, Kilkenny would struggle post-DJ? They obviously hadn’t been paying attention to his green-helmeted apprentice! I have attended every training session, every match since then and my admiration for him has grown and grown.

Kilkenny training sessions were always special, but not just ones leading up to the All Ireland, where the city flocks to Nowlan Park to get the latest news on how the team is going. No, the real magical ones were earlier in the summer, in late June, early July. The Park’ would be empty, quiet except for the murmurings of a few locals debating who would start and then the fierce efforts of players striving to snatch up a jersey. Then there was Henry, who would take free’s for at least half an hour after the rest had gone in. The importance of practicing the skills of hurling was something Henry mentioned again and again. It’s important to note that he wasn’t a shining star at underage. He was a sub goalie with Kieran’s, was on and off the minor panel, and if he hadn’t been called to the under 21’s , he would have jetted off to America to start a new adventure, Hard to believe but true!

This is partly why he was so admired, not just by Kilkenny people, but by hurling people. How many players has been this position? Being told they are no good, that they’ll never make it. Henry was one of these players, and the fact he cites constant practice of the basic skills as a major reason behind his success, shows a very clear message. Don’t give up, and you’ll get the rewards. This lesson can be taken in all areas of life, not just sport.

A term that has been used to describe the great players of the past, was that ‘they had it all’. No different for Henry. Height was at his advantage. He often overshadowed his markers, which probably added to his aura. He also had sublime skill, a turn of pace (even in his later years) and sublime vision. An example of this would be the 2012 All Ireland semi-final against Tipperary. Henry, heading towards goal, suddenly spots TJ Reid on his left, he switches hands, performs a monster of a handpass to young Reid who goals. Typical Henry.

His role within the team was crucial. So much so, that when Henry wasn’t on the pitch, there was something missing. It says so much that Brian Cody chose to play him in 2010 with an ACL injury, and why it was a massive blow when he had to come off 12 minutes in. If Cody was the driving force off the field, Henry was the equivalent on it. Who could forget the 2012 draw against Galway when he single-handedly dragged Kilkenny back from certain defeat. Only he could have done it. In one of his interviews during the week, Henry admitted he entered a zone that day, and played like there was no one else on the field. I’m sure a lot of hurlers in the future will be looking to enter that ‘zone’.

I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing Christy Ring play, nor Mick Mackey nor John Doyle. However I think Ring was right when he said that the best hurlers have yet to come, because we’ve seen them. We’ve seen Tommy Walsh, the pint-sized mastermind, We’ve seen Jj, the defensive supremo, We’ve seen Eoin Kelly, a figure of brilliance, and we’ve seen Henry, the King of them all.

So thank you Henry, thank you for making it such a pleasure to go to hurling matches over the last 16 years, thank you for giving people special memories, thank you for inspiring young people to NEVER give up on their dreams, Thank you.

A player for the ages, long may he reign.

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Quick Catch Up!

Hello everybody!

So firstly I want to sincerely apologize for the lack of content of post on this website lately…college had been extra crazy which curtailed my ability to keep up with the latest goings on in the GAA world. It’s hard to believe we have reached the playoff stages of the National Hurling League..who would’ve thought Kilkenny would be fighting relegation..only a year ago they were crowned league champions! I somehow doubt Brian Cody will be too worried, with the heat of the championship looming, he will a full strength squad to chose from. Massive congrats to Ballyhale Shamrocks on their recent All Ireland win, a fantastic achievement. Incredibly, it’s a 13th All Ireland medal of Henry Shefflin…what an icon! The big question will be whether he will continue at inter-county or not…if he does it will be good boost to Kilkenny, but no one can blame him for going out on a high of being a double All Ireland champion.

Cork and Tipperary are flying high at the moment and are looking strong for the championship.. however you’d have to say the likes of Limerick and Waterford will be strong contenders in Munster too.. and then there is Clare…It’s fair to say that the start of 2015 has not been easy for the 2013 All Ireland champions. Rumors of unrest in the camp, 3 brilliant young hurlers pulling out, a pretty dismal league and the fear of relegation looming over their heads, it hasn’t been easy. It’s hard to comprehend that they have won ONE MATCH since …. for  a team that had talent in abundance it is a real shame..Dublin, Wexford and Galway could be good bets in the Leinster championship and will make sure the Cats don’t have an easy ride..

Congress 2015 threw up interesting changes to the hurling scene …the one on one penalties will come in at the end of April (on a side note…would it have been a better idea they try it out in the league…it might cause havoc in the championship when a lot is at stake..) The advantage rule has been changed to say the referee must let 5 seconds of play develop before making a call …again interesting to see if this might encourage more free flowing games…

So what to expect in the coming weeks. well at the moment I am studying for exams…however I will make an effort of have at least  ONE post a week up …after the exams then I will go back to my usual twice a week format.. I am going to be doing a rather special one on Monday that I think you will all enjoy so stay tuned for that one….I will also have one Friday which will be either be a preview of the weekend or  something else….I’ll leave that as a surprise! Anyways check out my older posts if you have not already and like this on facebook or retweet on Twitter

Until the next time,

Ashling.

 

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Review of the weekend!

Quite an interesting weekend wasn’t it! Some surprising results were thrown up in a hurling league delivering on its promise of twist and turns. Here’s the lowdown on all the weekend’s action.

Dublin Vs Kilkenny.

Dublin are already becoming the team to beat in the league and the performance they gave yesterday showed why. They hadn’t beaten Kilkenny in their own backyard since 1964 so a win was definitely valued. What was so impressive about the performance was their use of the ball. They were creating space and finding their men which resulted in well taken scores. Players such as Simon Lambert, David Treacy, and Peter Kelly shone, and Danny Sutcliffe proved a handful for the Kilkenny defence. There is no doubt that game was blackened by 3 red cards, the one dished to John Joe Farrell particularly harsh. Sutcliffe was seen off with two yellows, but the two Kilkenny players received straight reds, which results in a months suspension. Jj Farrell’s may be appealed and if it’s rescinded, more questions will be asked about the use of cards in hurling. Kilkenny’s performance while under par, was probably down to a number of reasons, let’s not forget that they have not played a game up until mid February, plus being decimated with injured players and the absent Ballyhale players. All that said however, the performance of some of the new players was disappointing, which will be a worry for Cody. An unusually flat performance, but sometimes that happens, they’ll looking for an improvement when they go to Galway.

Galway Vs Tipperary.

Galway were buzzing after the win over Clare last week, while Tipperary were very disappointing in their opener against Dublin. A win would be a major boost to either team. A solid contest with great scores being traded. New players such Conor Cooney and Jason Forde were  particularly impressive. Tipp can be happy with their days work, as regulars such Bubbles O’ Dwyer and Seamus Callanan were back to their dangerous best, scoring decisive goals. Galway were valued in their efforts too, aswell, fighting to the very end for a win but coming up short. Anthony Cunningham will pleased with his charges. A win at home to Kilkenny will put tthem in a good position.

Clare Vs Cork.

Whenever these two counties meet, there is always fireworks. Both were beaten in the first round and were looking to get their campaign up and running. The best of Clare and Cork’s youth was on show with Booby Duggan and Alan Cadagon on fire. Cork improved on their poor opening performance. Jimmy Barry Murphy will be pleased with his side’s attitude in getting back on track. Davy Fitzgerald  and his Clare team on the other hand, are heading into the third round still pointless. The sight of the Blue and Gold will get their backs up and will add fuel to the fire. It’s still only February so there is a lot of hurling to be done, but time to get a win is now. On a side note, it is a total mystery to me why Patrick Horgan’s foul did not go unpunished. To strike a player in the neck area is extremely dangerous and to make things worse, it was off the ball. A lot of reds were flashed this weekend, and you would have to wonder, why referees are punishing JJ Farrell’s type of foul, which let’s be honest was not even a free in, and something like what happened in Cork wasn’t even dealt with. The debate of what constitutes a red card lives on.

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GAA:The Burnout Issue. Part 2 Inter County.

 

Kilkenny v Tipperary - GAA Hurling All Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay

 

 

Hello Everyone!

So since the burnout problem in GAA is such a wide-ranging issue, I decided to split the article into two parts, in the first part I focused on burnout concernig underage players, so be sure to check that out. In the second part I’ll be talking about burnout being a huge problem for senior inter-county teams.

When I first started researching this particular topic, I was stunned to find out  just how much players are being affected by burnout, and over-training. I always thought that it was younger players that were most at risk, what the demanding schedule of club, county and college. However further research suggest otherwise. Case in point, a little experiment. If you were to type out ‘burnout in GAA’ into the Google search engine, a good five pages, worth of articles, interviews, and reports would greet you, so to say it is well documented topic is a bit of an understatement. Nonetheless, it gave me massive food for thought.

Back in 2007, a report was released by the GAA on the whole burnout conundrum. 534 players were studied, between the ages of 16-24. All 32 counties were represented. It found that almost one third of the players studied played for at least FIVE teams within one competitive season. A further 26% of this figure played for seven or more teams in one competitive season. About one in every ten players were in the final stages of burnout, and as a result, their interest in Gaelic games was dwindling. 30% of the players were currently suffering from mental and physical exhaustion.42% of the players felt isolated from their clubs and detected resentment because their county participation. The statistics were just as shocking as they are today, which makes you wonder, how much is currently being done to tackle the problem?

Joe Brolly’s claims earlier this year, claiming current players were ‘indentured slaves’ may be slightly out of context, however it did hit a nerve. If a player is training seven days a week, not having any release and living an almost professional lifestyle, then of course resentment is bound to rear its ugly head. Let us not forget that the GAA is an amateur association, and the players play not for money but for enjoyment. It’s hard to do that however, if that player is unable to find a balance his playing commitments and other life demands. In a recent interview, three well-known players, issued a public demand for action on burnout. Tipperary defender Cathal Barrett, Waterford’s Noel Connors, and Meath’s captain Kevin Reilly admitted that they played for at least EIGHT teams as minors and slammed the narrow-mindedness of the managers for putting pressure on players to play. The trio agreed that it is time that managers must start putting player’s health first, whether it be physical or mental. A recent report claimed that one certain inter county team was asked to train 28 days out of a possible 31 day month, which not only puts the players’ at risk of injury, but will also lead to poor performances due to exhaustion.

A number of solutions have fallen by the wayside, however strength and conditioning coach and Dublin defender Philly McMahon offers a scientific solution to the problem. His sports science background helped him build up an immunity to constant action and has resulted in him not sustaining an injury for over two years. His argument is centered around the idea that player has to think for himself, and not be seduced into playing for various teams. The abundance of strength and conditioning coaches such as McMahon means that the GAA is joining the fast growing world of sports science. The anatomy of the player is being studied more acutely, and with a better understanding of this, burnout might become a smaller issue.

It is no secret that because Gaelic games is now being treated as serious commitment, on par with most professional sports, there is more awareness of the physical treatment of players. To do it right, the GAA and the GPA, must come together and work towards a more positive environment for the inter county player. If we want to see 17 year old player playing until he is 27 and maybe beyond that, then burnout must be treated just as seriously.

 

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