Weekend routs show it’s time for open draw

That was, without doubt, the worst weekend of hurling in a very, very long time.

Weekend routs show it’s time for open draw

All genuine hurling folk love a contest. Every supporter wants their team to prevail, but greatest satisfaction arises from prevailing in a contest.

The three one-sided routs we were subjected to at the weekend held no value for supporters, players or the respective management teams.

With 4-23 posted by Tipperary, 5-25 swatted by Kilkenny and 3-28 registered by Galway, these are the tallies we expect and associate with pitch-openings, challenge games and village festivals. These are not the tallies we associate with Munster and Leinster championship semi-finals.

Where is hurling going?

Could we just let Tipperary and Kilkenny play the All-Ireland final next weekend and save everyone else the bother?

On the basis of the weekend’s results, the 2015 championship will wind to the inevitable conclusion of a Kilkenny-Tipperary joust in Croke Park on the first Sunday in September.

Truth be told, we haven’t had a really competitive game since their final meeting last year and we probably won’t have another until they next lock horns.

Doesn’t that depict the sad state of affairs that hurling is currently in, that in the final week of June, unless Galway or Waterford take down one of the big two, we can predict who will contest the All-Ireland decider?

Is it time then to scrap the provincial structures in favour of an open draw?

We will never know unless we give it a try. The new GAA president is not long in office and I urge him to grasp the nettle at the root.

We have had three brutal games thus far in the Munster championship, so much for this being the most open Munster championship in years, and there hasn’t been too many glowing advertisements for the game in Leinster either.

It will be no different in a fortnight when the qualifiers take centre stage. The Cork-Wexford fixture aside, the other three games are foregone conclusions. A good friend of mine remarked on his way out of Limerick on Sunday evening that at least the football championship is competitive. Is hurling now the poor relation?

Limerick received a handy draw away to Westmeath in the qualifiers, but it will serve only to delay the inevitable. Sunday wasn’t a once-off where Limerick are concerned. The once-off was when they put it up to Kilkenny in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final.

They have been living off that performance since and they have had a string of no-shows this year — the league quarter-final hammering against Dublin and the defeat to Offaly at the Gaelic Grounds spring to mind.

Wexford are no different, content to live off a decent summer run in 2014. They didn’t put it up to Waterford on their home patch when promotion to Division 1A of the league was at stake and how quickly they rolled over at Nowlan Park was frightening.

Both teams have been training the best part of seven months for championship and this is the best they can produce; performances that earn them 16 and 24-point maulings respectively.

There won’t be too many youngsters in Limerick and Wexford out in their back garden this morning dreaming of pulling on the green or the purple and yellow shirt.

More than 31,000 filed into the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday. Expect the turnstiles to turn slower and slower if the lop-sided nature of the championship continues.

It wasn’t so long ago when Wexford, Limerick and Offaly ruled the hurling landscape.

Next year Offaly will compete in the Leinster round-robin phase. Take Antrim, relegated to the Christy Ring, as another microcosm of hurling’s overall decline.

For all the progress made by Laois, the 20-point annihilation by Galway carried strong shades of the 2011 massacre by Cork.

It is abundantly clear that the two teams at the top end of the ladder are pulling further out of sight.

And let no one pull out a whiteboard and tell me tactics were at the root of Kilkenny and Tipperary’s supremacy at the weekend.

The Limerick full-back line came in for plenty of criticism for their inability to hold down Tipperary’s inside trio, but what of the 12 other men who were out-hurled further afield?

Tipperary were sharper and more intelligent in every facet of play. In John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer they have hurling’s sweetest striker of the ball. In Seamus Callanan they a goal-poacher supreme.

There was a steeliness to their play which was missing the past two years when they squared up to the Treatymen. Declan Fanning, who came on board this year, has been the difference in that regard.

This was supposed to be the weekend the hurling summer took flight.

But what did Tipperary learn at the Gaelic Grounds? What did Kilkenny learn at Nowlan Park?

We learned only that our great game is in trouble.

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