/ GAA

The Covered Stand: Kilkenny Football

Updated: Tuesday, 06 Mar 2012 14:33

Kilkenny football is under the microscope after two resounding defeats in the past week
Kilkenny football is under the microscope after two resounding defeats in the past week

By Rory J O'Neill @RTEGAA

Kilkenny GAA has been under attack this week. The county has been hammered from pillar to post about its disgraceful and contemptuous attitude towards football. None of this is news though, is it?

There was the customary outpouring of hysteria that accompanies a football result involving the county. It happens every few years.

On Saturday Sport last weekend Des Cahill and Joanne Cantwell engaged in a fascinating debate with Ned Quinn, Tommy Carr and Martin Skelly about the ills surrounding the game in Kilkenny at the moment, with Des reminding listeners that a similar reaction accompanied a defeat to Clare in the NFL back in the 1980s when the bus driver had to fall in and tog out.

It has been ever thus. Kilkenny have been on the receiving end of big beatings in football for years. Two major embarrassments in the one week tend to bring the focus on it a bit more than usual.

By next week the focus will have shifted elsewhere, yet the beatings will continue. And will anyone care? Will they care in Kilkenny? Hardly.

The barbs of criticism have been pointed most sharply towards the Kilkenny County Board, which manifested itself in Ned Quinn's staunch defence of their policies on football and a heated exchange with Tommy Carr. It was good radio.

We have a certain amount of sympathy for Ned. Kilkenny's attitude towards football is no different to how hurling is promoted across huge parts of Ulster and Connacht. Yet there aren't many queuing up to lambaste the Cavan County Board for disbanding their senior hurling team completely.

What's being done for hurling in Leitrim, Sligo or Monaghan?

If any of these teams had to go out and face the Kilkenny U21s in hurling what would the result be? The likelihood is we would see the same kind of farcical result that led to such a hue and cry last Wednesday and Sunday respectively. It smacks of people in glass houses.

Would we be running about the place pointing accusatory fingers at the Cavan County Board for their apparent ‘contempt’ of hurling? Or would we simply dismiss it as an insurmountable gap in standards from the Kingpins to the minnows?

Coming from a club, Nemo Rangers, and school, Colaiste Chriost Ri, background where the major emphasis was always on one code over the other, we can see to a certain extent where Kilkenny are coming from.

They have long since adopted a very simple philosophy: Better to be master of one than a jack of all trades. That they are masters in hurling is undisputed. They're even-money to retain their crown in 2012. Few will back against them.

Christy Ring once famously said: 'The best way to revive hurling is to stick a knife in every football in the country...’

And while Kilkenny haven't gone to that extent, their commitment to the mastery of our national game should be applauded, promoted and extolled.

The derision being poured on their attempts to promote football is borne out of jealousy and snobbery. Their unbridled and near complete dominance of the small ball was always going to invoke envy.

They can deal with that but what football people find baffling (and sometimes near insulting) is their complete indifference to the big ball.

Hurling and handball rule in Kilkenny: handball in the winter to keep the eye in and fitness up until the pitches harden and they can go out again and hurl.

Could they be doing more for football? Probably.

And, of course, one of the dangers is that if more counties decided to specialize in the pursuit of success, where would that leave us? What would happen if, say, Offaly decided to concentrate on football, or Limerick on hurling?

Tommy Carr argued that Dublin in hurling and Tipperary in football are the models we need to adopt if we are to be sincere and legitimate in our efforts to develop both codes.

That's grand in Dublin, where you have the population and the investment, or in Tipperary, a huge county with nearly twice the population of Kilkenny.

Most of South Tipp is football-country and in the past has produced some fantastic Inter County footballers like Declan Browne and Peter Lambert.

Kilkenny has never had history. It’s never had tradition.

People complained when they weren’t in the National Football Leagues. Having returned in 2008 after nearly ten years marked absent, people now complain they lose by too much.

Kilkenny and their football woes - this record has been playing a while now. The chances are that in five or ten years’ time it’ll be playing still.

Someone needs to check if it’s not actually broken.

* Rory J ONeill is Programme Editor of League Sunday