Fans tend to savour the glory days more than the modern era

Fans tend to savour the glory days more than the modern era

Nemo supporters flying the flag against the Barrs. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

ASK us to say, off the top of our heads, who won the 2011 county SFC title, say, and we’ll have to think for a few minutes before recalling that UCC beat Castlehaven in the decider.

That’s nothing against the College, of course. 

Theirs was a talented team of what manager Dr Paul O’Keeffe recently described as “stars in the making”, but it’s just a kind of near-sightedness problem with the brain. 

It affects us with all sports – the 1993-94 Premiership season is recalled a lot more easily than 2013-14.

Ask who won the 1992 county though and the answer of O’Donovan Rossa bounces to mind.

Maybe it’s the fact they went on to win the All-Ireland club title the following spring, or perhaps the story is augmented by the fact that a sizeable number of fans and players had quite a bit of money on the Skibbereen side at odds of 33-1.

Nowadays, perhaps such behaviour would be frowned upon, but perhaps the whole story is indicative of a simpler time, when the actual game went hand-in-hand with a wider narrative. 

We might sound more curmudgeonly, but there is a greater sanitisation now.

That Skibb team are fresh in the mind as they were the jubilee side for last Sunday’s final, the first in the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh. 

The decision to keep the top tier of the South Stand – what used to be the ‘covered stand’, but renamed due to losing its uniqueness with that feature – closed was a good one, as it meant that more people went in the North Stand, something which would have of course not been a palatable option in the old days.

With the cameras on the southside, as it were, it made for a better visual and gave a less lopsided feel. 

You’d have liked if more people were there, but sadly, crowds like those for the 1994 final, when Skibb reached the final again, with neighbours the Haven, are probably gone forever.

The sides drew in front of 20,000 or so and there were more there for the replay, which the Haven won. Not that the small attendance will matter to the new premier intermediate football champions Mallow, of course.

Nationally, an interesting development last week was the appointment of Pat Gilroy as the manager of the Dublin senior hurling team, five years after a four-year stint as the county football boss ended.

It’s not a unique achievement, as has been reported elsewhere – for instance, Seán Boylan took charge of Meath in both codes, albeit in reverse order, having the ‘marquee’ role with the footballers second – but it’s certainly an interesting, left-field choice.

By all accounts, Gilroy didn’t play hurling for his club St Vincent’s beyond minor level and has no managerial experience with the small ball – but then, he hadn’t any football management experience before replacing Paul Caffrey in the autumn of 2008.

Pat Gilroy. Picture: INPHO/Donall Farmer
Pat Gilroy. Picture: INPHO/Donall Farmer

That wasn’t an obstacle to him taking the county to a first All-Ireland in 16 years in 2011, laying the foundations for the Jim Gavin-guided dominance we’re now quite familiar with.

Will he improve the Dublin players’ skill-sets by himself? 

Probably not, but then that’s what coaches are for and he is likely to appoint a top practitioner in this field, with former Galway boss Anthony Cunnigham – who, coincidentally, has also enjoyed success on the football sideline – in line for that role.

Gilroy’s magic ingredients are his man-management and organisational skills. 

He largely got the football job nine years ago due to business acumen and his time with the footballers formed the largest part of his hurling candidature. 

Regardless of the industry or the raw materials, he’s capable of getting results, and Dublin GAA fans will hope that he can entice back some of those who were not on the panel for various reasons in 2017.

If they can get their act together, then it promises to make things very interesting in terms of next year’s hurling championship. 

Assuming that the five Munster championship counties are at a level near contention, Leinster looks like being very competitive too, with one of Kilkenny, Wexford, Galway or Dublin missing out on the quarter-final stage (we’re assuming, perhaps unfairly, that Offaly will be bringing up the rear).

It will certainly make for a cut-throat group stage, with three counties left disappointed by a season ending early. 

At least club fixture problems may be somewhat eased in those counties.

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