Blow for young GAA players with Harty Cup and Corn Uí Mhuirí on hold

January isn't the same without the usual diet of hurling and football
Blow for young GAA players with Harty Cup and Corn Uí Mhuirí on hold

Niall Hartnett leading out the CBC team to play St Flannan’s in the 2020 Dr Harty Cup final. Picture: Dan Linehan

IT might be still the month of January but in normal circumstances, the GAA season would be up and running to a large degree.

Action on the club front would not have got off the ground yet but the various units across the county would be intensifying their training for the commencement of the leagues at all levels next month.

On the inter-county side of things, the pre-season competitions would be well underway and, in fact, they’d probably be in their latter stages now before management teams get down to the far more serious business of finalising their panels for the start of the national league.

On the colleges' front, both at second and third level things would be rather hectic right now with the Harty Cup and Corn Uí Mhuirí the main focus of attention for those still remaining in contention.

UCC and the now Munster Institute of Technology out in Bishopstown would be hoping to impact on the Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cups with the Western Road outfit on the trail of three-in-a-row in the Fitzgibbon.

But that’s all changed now and nobody quite knows when we will see action on the playing fields again.

One thing that we do know for certain is that when the green light is given to commence again the games will still be played behind closed doors.

There are growing fears that the national league may not happen at all this season. 

It was interesting to read the comments of newly elected Westmeath chair, Frank Mescall earlier in the week when he stated that it would be totally irresponsible to resume collective inter-county training on February 1 unless there is a huge drop off in the numbers of Covid cases.

Offaly chair, Michael Duignan was of a similar mind last week.

It’s all very much up in the air at the moment and the only certainty is the uncertainty.

With regard to the pre-season competitions, they served a purpose, particularly the Munster Hurling League since its introduction in 2016.

A lot of the general public didn’t lose too much sleep if a county didn’t perform particularly well in the competition but it was important nonetheless.

The object of the exercise in those games was to try and find a player or two who might have something to contribute further on when the ante was upped considerably in the national league and Munster championship.

MOTIVATED LIMERICK

Some counties took the pre-season competition more seriously than others and Limerick was one of the counties that certainly put plenty of store into it.

In fact, in their All-Ireland winning years of 2018 and last season, the story began with a successful Munster League campaign.

And if one recalls, they trounced Cork in last season’s final to the tune of 1-32 to 0-20.

Cork hurlers won the pre-season competition just on the one occasion in 2017 and followed that up with success in the Munster championship a few months later.

So, it has been proved that a successful pre-season campaign can be a foundation stone for greater rewards further on.

Limerick boss, John Kiely has always taken the view that building up early momentum and developing a winning mentality is nothing but good for a bunch of players.

One can recall Seamus Flanagan making his debut against Cork in the competition a few years ago down in Mallow and making a big impact on the night.

That was the beginning for a player who is now such a key figure in Limerick’s great story of success.

Pre-season competitions do serve a purpose and if you got just one player who goes on to contribute further down the line, then that’s a plus.

 Alan Connolly, Blackrock, taking on Donagh Guiney, Newtownshandrum, last season. Connolly is a highly-rated talent in Cork hurling. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Alan Connolly, Blackrock, taking on Donagh Guiney, Newtownshandrum, last season. Connolly is a highly-rated talent in Cork hurling. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

From a Cork viewpoint, it would have been interesting to see how additions to the panel like Tadhg Deasy, Alan Connolly and Shane Barrett, the latter, of course, got some game time in the defeat of Dublin in the All-Ireland qualifiers, the one game that the team performed well in, got on.

With no pre-season competitions this time and maybe no national league either, management teams would be at a major disadvantage in their search for fresh talent.

In that regard, Limerick have no great worries such is their panel depth, something we saw in both their recent All-Ireland victories.

The loss of the Harty and Fitzgibbon Cups are a considerable blow too and the latter was a useful guide for an inter-county boss to see how some of his panel were progressing.

And on a cold January day or night a good Fitzgibbon Cup game certainly warmed the heart and UCC’s bid for a hat-trick of titles would have been fascinating.

But right now there are far more important matters to deal with but, hopefully, sooner rather than later we’ll have the clash of the ash again.

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