Time to fix crazy situation with Galway clubs

I met Nickey Brennan in the lift on the way out of Croke Park yesterday. “If ever a system needed to be redressed,” I said to him, “the set-up with the Galway club champions has to change.”

Time to fix crazy situation with Galway clubs

I met Nickey Brennan in the lift on the way out of Croke Park yesterday. “If ever a system needed to be redressed,” I said to him, “the set-up with the Galway club champions has to change.”

I don’t want to seem like I’m trampling on St Thomas’ grave after Ballyhale buried them but the system makes no sense.

It can’t when the Galway champions just have to play the Ulster champions (with all due respect) to reach a final. Compare that to the route Ballygunner had to try and traverse after winning Waterford; their prize for beating Midleton, Ballyea and Na Piarsaigh was a semi-final clash against the Shamrocks. It makes no sense.

If Galway are in Leinster now, the GAA need to go lock stock and barrel and fire their clubs in there too. Galway have had some brilliant club teams over the years but there aren’t any of those brilliant Athenry, Sarsfields and Portumna sides around anymore. And the system is too skewed in favour of Galway clubs when you compare the barriers placed in front of Munster and Leinster sides.

Ballyhale were on another level to Thomas’. Their shooting and the quality of their link-play was far superior while Thomas’ had no one to handle Colin Fennelly, who shot the lights out. Adrian Mullen was class too but Ballyhale had that brilliance all over the pitch.

It’s some achievement for a club to win seven All-Irelands but it’s a great testament to Henry Shefflin too in his first year in management. As well as being a great leader on the field, Henry was very calm and composed as a player. And you could see those traits all over Ballyhale yesterday.

The great PJ Murrihy, the singer-songwriter from Mullagh in Clare, has a song about upping the ante, where he talks about lads having corporate boxes at Old Trafford and ‘a yacht in Alicante’. The words came into my head as I listened to the Dublin-Tipperary match on the radio on Saturday. By God, Tipp were far removed from their recent trip to Alicante as Dublin took them down.

When Tipperary drew level late on, I was asking myself, ‘Will Dublin fold up tent now or will we really see what they’re made off? And they showed everyone what’s in their stomach. Waterford’s destruction of Clare was a serious statement.

Galway showed their class too in the second half against Wexford but Dublin were the story of Saturday.

When men were wanted, Dublin had them. Some of Tipp’s key men were taken off, which asks some of the hard questions which seemed to have gone away after their win against Cork last week. Credit to Dublin but Liam Sheedy knows full well now that Tipp are going nowhere near as well as Cork made them look eight days ago.

I have great time for John Mullane. We’d be great friends but he got me frustrated on Saturday when he started speaking about Eoghan O’Donnell. John reckoned that if O’Donnell was with any other county, he’d get the full credit he deserves.

That kind of stuff drives me crazy. It drives Dublin hurling supporters mad. These guys are serious players. O’Donnell is one of the best defenders in the country. He deserves a lot more credit than some fellas in other counties get.

So do more of the Dubs. A good share of these boys have two All-Ireland club medals. They went through a bad patch for a couple of years but Dublin could have beaten Kilkenny and Wexford last year. And I think they will be genuine Leinster and All-Ireland contenders this year.

Everything else is a bonus now but Dublin should go all out to try and win the league. They have more depth in their squad than a lot of people think. A lot of it is just confidence. I see it myself with Oisin O’Rorke at Kilmacud Crokes. Oisín is on fire at the moment but once he believes in himself, he’s harder to mark than most corner-forwards in the game.

Waterford’s accuracy was off the charts against Clare. Hitting 31 points is astronomical scoring on any day but to hit that number on a blustery day on a wet pitch reaffirmed how impressive the performance was. If Dublin got a lot of confidence from their display, Waterford will take even more from that level of shooting.

It was a wake-up call for Clare but March is always the time for wake-up calls. The big question Clare have now is, with no club championship in April, what do they do next? It’s still only mid-March. The Munster championship doesn’t begin until May 12. Would Clare not be better off with at least one round of club championship? It would at least give lads a break from each other for a while.

Management is key for Clare now. This will really test their mettle now as they seek to get that balance right over the next two months. They have other stuff to sort out too. Conor Cleary’s red card was a little harsh but Clare need to review that sending-off if he’s to be available for Waterford in eight weeks.

Galway were under huge pressure at half-time in Pearse Stadium but their class and experience really shone throughout the second half. Cathal Mannion was brilliant again but the way Galway picked Wexford apart showed that they just know how to deconstruct that system now.

That will pose more questions now for Davy Fitzgerald. He was giving out hell to Cathal McAllister at half-time over the free-count. He had a case on some of those frees but when he looks back, Fitzy will know the majority of them were frees. Anyway, I felt he should have been more focused on the positives of being one point ahead, with the breeze to come, rather than dwelling on the negatives.

Anyway, the next few weeks will have given Fitzy, Donal Moloney, Gerry O’Connor and Liam Sheedy plenty to ponder. The yacht in Alicante has definitely gone off shore but it wasn’t the only one to go off-line at the weekend. And the next two months now are all about getting it back online for the stormy waters coming in May.

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