Cuala-Na Piarsaigh decider a sensational advertisement for improvement in club game

Cuala-Na Piarsaigh decider a sensational advertisement for improvement in club game

By Peter McNamara

You will have to search long and hard to locate a quote that more adequately summed up the meaning of top-level sporting success than a particular one of Mattie Kenny’s after Cuala overcame Na Piarsaigh last Saturday.

“Someone said to me that in hurling and in sport, you’re training and living for the 15 minutes after the match, because that’s the unbridled joy you get from a victory like that,” Kenny mused.

Simple words. However, as poignant and as accurate as it gets in congesting a feeling of sporting satisfaction into a few sentences.

When you really think about it, we’re all bonkers, the supporters, the management and the players. People in sport.

Anybody involved in sport, be it following a team or teams across different codes, or those on the coalface, guiding a group of players or the players themselves, we would really want our heads examined as we spend our lives dedicating ourselves to chasing that, all too often elusive, feeling Kenny is talking about.

That 15 minutes of euphoria after the final whistle of a game in which your team has succeeded in reaching the very top, the highest perch a team can claw their way to in a given competition.

Whether you are inside the white lines chasing the dream or on the terraces praying the players achieve theirs, it’s all a bit mental, really.

And all just for that 15 minutes.

Oh, but what a 15-minute spell it is, though. Far superior writers have attempted to describe the feeling in the past. However, it is almost pointless because the feeling is a little different for each individual. Each person has their own slant on why their team succeeding means so much to them.

But then again, sport is all mental, isn’t it? After all, Cuala eventually won the psychological warfare with their Limerick counterparts after 140-plus gripping minutes of hurling to become only the fifth side to retain the Tommy Moore Cup. Remarkable. Historic. And extremely laudable.

Winning an All-Ireland club title is an exceptional achievement. Retaining the same title is nigh-on impossible. Ask all of those before each of the five teams in the history of the code that has managed it. Even retaining your county title following an All-Ireland breakthrough is a path riddled with pitfalls.

Yet, here are Cuala, now back-to-back All-Ireland champions.

Cuala-Na Piarsaigh decider a sensational advertisement for improvement in club game

“The last 10 minutes was epic. Sometimes we were attacking and then it would break down to their big men at the far end – they looked so dangerous.

“I was talking to the supporters there afterwards and they were saying it was real edge-of-the-seat stuff. So look, we’re delighted to get over the line,” Kenny added.

The standard of the club game is better than it has ever been before.

And, of course, Na Piarsaigh contributed handsomely to two wonderful spectacles.

To Shane O’Neill and his players, that won’t mean anything at all as they didn’t get to experience that 15 minutes Kenny spoke of, this time.

Cuala-Na Piarsaigh decider a sensational advertisement for improvement in club game

Yet, from a neutral standpoint, the likes of Cuala and Na Piarsaigh elevate the game.

Other clubs surely looked at their two encounters and were motivated to improve.

The reality is the gap in standards between the inter-county grades and the club scene is narrowing due to the enhanced dedication of the players at club level as well as the increase in the scientific preparation also applied to that sector of the Association.

It is noticeable too that many people that follow that codes have suggested in the last two to three years that a host of club matches, televised or otherwise, have entertained them far more than the tactically straitjacketed inter-county scene.

As the club game grows, we may see an even greater divide between that and the inter-county domain.

And not, obviously, in terms of standard. In fact, the total opposite. The trajectory of the quality of the club game is steadily rising. Therefore, the arrears will be less and less pronounced in that regard.

Yet, due to that improvement on the club side is what might accentuate the divide between the two.

The more entertaining the club scene gets, it is possible that a minority of folk will be less inclined to follow their inter-county team the length and breadth of the country.

Of course, this may probably only apply to people involved in clubs of which have genuine claims on successful trophy raids.

All the same, it is something to monitor in the coming seasons. How far can the club game go in terms of popularity among the purists?

The inter-county grades are arguably more fascinating than ever given how professionally technical the teams are prepared.

Nevertheless, there are a minority of dissenting voices about how that facet of the Association is going. And those people may decide to focus even more of their attention on their respective clubs than pay through the turnstiles to see their county side play in the league and or championship.

Separately, Galway’s progression this season will encounter its first true test on Sunday when they tackle Dublin in the Allianz NFL Division 1 final at headquarters.

Jim Gavin’s side will be competing in their sixth league final in a row and will be extremely keen to regain the title having succumbed to Kerry 0-20 to 1-16 in the final last year.

Cuala-Na Piarsaigh decider a sensational advertisement for improvement in club game

If the Tribesmen are to produce a shock, they will have to curb the influences of both Ciarán Kilkenny and Niall Scully.

Between them, Kilkenny (2-16) and Scully (2-8) have accounted for 4-24 of Dublin’s scoring total in the competition.

We all appreciate Kilkenny’s class, but Kevin Walsh will also have to be aware of Scully’s raids from deep-sitting angles from halfway upwards.

Scully could torment Galway in Croker.

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