Weeshie's Week

Change of minds badly needed for jaded provincial championships

June 7th, 2016
by Weeshie Fogarty

And so we begin yet another jaded, unfair and uneven Munster football championship, unknown to ourselves we have become accustomed to the same old story in this province, easy wins for Kerry and Cork in the opening rounds, often much more than just easy, sometimes humiliation for the so called weaker teams. And still year after year the powers that be continue to accept this lop sided championship. Yes of course very occasionally we do have some close calls for Kerry and Cork in Munster as they qualify to meet each other year after year, but this is as rare as hen's teeth. How often have we heard managers of Kerry and Cork remark after a Munster final, "our warm up game in the first round was a great help". Because sad to say that is what these games are to Kerry and Cork, quite simply warm up games.

Kerry will beat Clare next weekend and Cork will beat Tipperary, you can try to analyse it anyway you want to and waste pages of print but every year it's the very same, and while the real competition here in Munster is confined to just one game every year, the Munster final between Kerry and Cork when you look at Leinster and see just how Dublin have dominated affairs there it beggars belief that the authorities have not come up with some system to give fans the real championship fare the crave for and deserve.

A huge change of minds is badly needed, the gap between counties is slowly growing bigger and bigger.  I am convinced the provincial councils are fully determined there should be no change in the system as it would be detrimental to their financial incomes, so for them is a case of "leave what's well for us alone". The so called back door system was introduced to placate the need for change with the notion of giving the weaker counties an opportunity of maybe even winning an All-Ireland. But this has backfired in a big way. It's the strong powerful counties, given this second chance that has benifitted greatly.

It's a clear indication to me just how the provincial championships especially in Munster and Leinster have completely lost the interest of followers when all the talk in my experience is now all about Dublin and whether they can be beaten. While there is little or no talk about the upcoming Clare game even the age old clash with Cork has been pushed well into the background. Yes indeed this years championship is all about Dublin whether we like it or not, the conversation always now seem to turn to them. Are they beatable? That will be a story for me another day.

Leinster was done and dusted even before it had begun, Dublin as we saw last Saturday evening in Kilkenny are cranking up for another easy passage. Meath and Kildare I feel are the sides best placed to cause a majour upset. If they get everything right, they might give the Dubs a game.  In Connaught Mayo should come through as champions once again. They are a real conundrum, always expected and obliging to fail when they come to Croke Park for the final stages but they are so close to the big longed for breakthrough. They are the one side who Dublin will fear most and if Mayo can tighten up their defence they will give any side a great run for their money. Strong, very fit and organise, led by the towering Aidan o Shea and now with the added confidence of being All Ireland under 21 champions in my book they are the second best side to Dublin. Galway are beginning to improve but I feel it will be another year or so before they dethrone this mayo side.

In Ulster all the talk is about Tyrone with their new team, great speed, lovely ball players, mass defence and fast breaking as we saw in the division two final against Cavan. Mikey Harte the longest serving manager will have them primed and ready however I feel Donegal still have a last kick in them and would have that experience and hardness to beat Tyrone and of course the holders Monaghan will also have a big say. I liked what I saw of the new Tyrone in the league final and while Ulster as always is the most difficult providence of all to win Mickey Harte's massive experience in willing and losing  might see them through.  

And then there is Cork and Kerry. What is happening across the border, hammered by Roscommon at home in the league, relegated to division two Cork just baffle me. Once again they continue to produce top class players reaching the All-Ireland under 21 final this year and a string of successful minor and under age players in the county who should just now be reaching their full potential.  Their possibility I feel is enormous, fine big skilful, mobile ball playing men all over the field, however maybe their greatest problem is lack of leadership on the field when the proverbial chips are down.

When push comes to shove with Cork they just fold, their capitulation to Kildare in the qualifying game last year, 1-21 to 1-13 was a sad sight, Kildare were later hammered by Kerry, and when you realise that Cork should have beaten Kerry in that drawn Munster final then there is some deep underlying confidence problem there, a soft centre, lack of belief which comes to the surface, out of nowhere. Their  management team  will be on trial, it is they who will have to work hardest of all, instilling confidence, a settled game plan to suit the present style of defensive football we are all now so familiar with. As always they will expect, they are as badly wounded now as I have ever seen them. Surely they will want to atone for their dismal year as mentioned, and yes they could win Munster.  

Kerry must win the All-Ireland; that is the bottom line, forget about Dublin for the moment, Eamon Fitzmaurice and the Kerry management have massive decisions to make, but probably they have already made them? It's not about planning for Clare and the Munster final, the big picture is what it is now all about.   A mixture of younger men and the senior players with lots of mileage on the clock and years of running in the legs, and now giving it one last shot.  The easy option now is to bring on some of the younger men recently added to the panel during the closing stages of games being easily won or else taking a leap of faith and introduce them on the first fifteen and place your trust in them. It's going to be a fine balancing act with the panel. Surely those decisive defeats by Dublin in the final last year and the league final this year has laid bare to management exactly where the problems are. Kerry have always been known for learning from their losses.  Clare will be beaten; Cork will be more difficult, but will we see a change of thinking and forward planning for what lies further down the championship line. Mayo, Tyrone, Donegal, Dublin will all be waiting. The first steps in the balancing act referred to begins next Sunday; we wish all involved the very best of luck.  

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