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Sean O'Leary-Hayes of Cork in action against Brian Concannon of Galway. Picture: Ray Ryan/Sportsfile
Sean O'Leary-Hayes of Cork in action against Brian Concannon of Galway. Picture: Ray Ryan/Sportsfile
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The Paudie Palmer column: Hurling league is now no better than a series of glorified challenge games

IT took the GAA a while to come on board the bandwagon of hosting high- profile friendly contests!

Cast your minds back, especially those of you who have scope in this area, to the good old days of international rugby, the Five or Six Nations Championship. I don’t think those talented Italians were always part of the programme.

Contrast these times with what the oval ball commercial unit now imposes on us, the so-called Autumn Series. In reality, these are glorified challenge games, sponsored by the makers of the black stuff, but the media and the public have all bought in.

What else is needed? Let us hope that the Tailteann Cup has as much success with the public and the media operators.

Take the world of association football, no sooner will the present season comes to an end and all the big corporate outfits will head off to different parts of the planet and participate in a three- or four-game tournament. This again will command huge media and supporter interest, especially when they feature the likes of Liverpool and Man United.

We can report, the GAA has its own built-in high-profile series of friendlies, otherwise known as the Division 1A and 1B of the hurling league! Bear with us.

Prior to this year’s league, I brought to your attention that the competition authority would have great difficulty in signing off on the use of the word league to describe these most uncompetitive sporting competitions.

Just for a little clarity, Division 1 is divided into two six-team groups. You know as well as I do, that there are about eight high-quality inter-county hurling teams and the rest are very much back down the field.

At the conclusion of the first phase, three teams from each group of six, will qualify for the knockout stages. I can recall, that in regards to Division 1B, I actually informed you that these three would be Clare, Wexford and Kilkenny. It’s no boast that I was right. What’s worse is it will be the same three next season.

You should check the odds of that happening with your local turf accountant, you might possibly recoup some of this week’s Cheltenham losses.

In Division 1A, I told you that it would be a case of three from five, as Westmeath were always going to be the basement side. On the League Sunday programme last weekend, we got official confirmation.

The presenter of the show made some reference to the fact that the aforementioned National Hurling League could now be described as a non-competitive event.

Dónal Óg Cusack responded that if that be the case, the media have all bought in and the viewing public are voting with their feet in that attendances haven’t diminished.

It is now, more or less, official, the NHL is nothing more than a series of high-profile friendlies. The teams that participate don’t have to worry about relegation, that side of things will be looked after by the minions, such as Carlow and Westmeath.

If the GAA wanted a real Division 1 hurling league, it would have eight teams, top two qualifying for the final and the bottom one or two being relegated. Spare yourself, hurling operates by its own rules.

What all of this means is that the management teams of the top eight counties can use these series of challenge games, as opportunities to try out new players and even experiment with new tactics.

Meanwhile, back in football land where, because of the presence of real promotion and relegation, all the teams are under pressure from day one to win a certain number of matches, to firstly avoid the drop and for those in Division 2, 3 and 4 to try to win enough to get promoted.

Parity of esteem is quite a way off in the dual world of the GAA. Is it because, last Sunday was international Women’s’ Day, that a few happenings in the planet camogie and ladies football caused us some concern.

Firstly, a motion at the ladies football congress, which would recognise the concept of the dual player was defeated. I have been informed that the reason why it was defeated had to do with the fact that the dual nature could be interpreted to encompass other sports, other than camogie and ladies football.

 Ciara McCarthy, Cork, tracking Katie Nolan, Kilkenny in their Littlewoods Division 1 camogie league match at Páirc Uí Rinn, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
Ciara McCarthy, Cork, tracking Katie Nolan, Kilkenny in their Littlewoods Division 1 camogie league match at Páirc Uí Rinn, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

For the moment, we will have to accept that explanation but it will be most interesting to see if the motion is submitting in a clearer fashion, at next year’s congress.

On Sunday last, the Cork camogie team which included a number of new young players, defeated Kilkenny on a scoreline of 2-17 to 0-9, to record Cork’s second win in the league. Cork’s green flag players were the very impressive Amy O’Connor and Cliona Healy, with nine points coming from the stick of West Cork girl, Orla Cronin.

However, it was somewhat disappointing to note that the match went ahead without the presence of official linesmen, not sure as to who is responsible for supplying such personnel, whether it is the match referee, the national camogie association or the home county, but such a scenario does give out all the wrong vibes.

The 2020 initiative and show your stripes are all well and good, but getting the basics right is paramount.

As we have mentioned in the past, second-level school activity is close to the page, and to that end well done to Colaiste Treasa from Kanturk, who defeated Holy Rosary College, Mountbellew in the Michael Cusack Cup (Senior CH) semi-final, on Saturday 2-23 to 3-12, with Callum O’Shaughnessy from the Banteer club getting the goals.

Calum O'Shaughnessy about to react quickest to net a Coláiste Treasa goal against Holy Rosary College in the All-Ireland Colleges C hurling semi-final at Rathkeale. Picture: John Tarrant
Calum O'Shaughnessy about to react quickest to net a Coláiste Treasa goal against Holy Rosary College in the All-Ireland Colleges C hurling semi-final at Rathkeale. Picture: John Tarrant

It was an interesting contest, for the Walsh cousins, as three of the six forwards share DNA. Brothers Colin and Alan landed five points, with cousin Tommy chipping in for one.

The three play their club hurling with Kanturk. Someday, I must do an audit on how many of that surname, are attached to this Duhallow club. Anyway, in the final on Saturday week, Coláiste Treasa will play Boyne CS, from Trim in Meath. It will be one special day for all at this progressive school and its attaching community.

CONTACT: [email protected] or tweet @paudiep.