Our hopes for the 2017 GAA season? They read as follows...
A Kelly-Kilkenny reacquaintance
Ten championship games have passed since Barry Kelly last took charge of one involving Kilkenny, the 2014 All-Ireland final. The longer that gap grows the more it reflects poorly on the Westmeath referee, widely regarded as one of the best in the business.
It hardly tallies with the warning the GAA issued Brian Cody about his remarks about Kelly. A reacquaintance this coming summer would end suspicions that either the GAA’s referees appointment committee are afraid of Cody or they believe some of his assertions may have been right.
There was outrage in Mayo when they perceived a touch of synchronicity about the amount of Dublin personalities taking to public forms to highlight how Diarmuid Connolly was being targeted. There was a kernel of truth in their suspicions: it’s joked about in the capital that one former Dublin player provided an interview with the full knowledge of Jim Gavin’s management.
Mayo themselves appeared to dabble in a little of it when Ger Cafferkey took to Twitter to express his wish for a round of club games to be postponed ahead of the All-Ireland final. It worked and it could be argued the same strategy did for Dublin too but it’s unbecoming.
An amended mark
Let’s be honest, as Gaelic football’s new rule is about to descend on us (pardon the pun) there isn’t much optimism that it is going to save high-fielding, not when any clean catch between the 45-metre lines from a kick-out is considered a mark.
Admittedly, it will be easier for referees to detect such fetches but if those under the shoulders are deemed to be the same value as those above it, then it defeats the purpose. A change will likely be required.
Leave the Cats alone, Ger
Ger Loughnane remains one of the most absorbing hurling pundits around but his fascination/obsession with Kilkenny let him down this past year.
Earlier in the year, he commended Cody for what he achieved with a “functional” group yet by the end of November was saying he should step aside. Gleaning attention is one thing, being regarded as a flip-flopper is another. Recent remarks by Jackie Tyrrell sum up a lot of what Kilkenny people feel about Loughnane.
An extension for Mickey Harte
On the basis of last year’s Ulster and Division 2 successes, the long-standing Tyrone manager did more than enough to warrant an additional term but wasn’t given one.
He himself has denied some off-field differences between the county board and himself are the reason behind their refusal to grant him more time in the position but given the strides Tyrone are making officials, may have no other choice but to give him what he wants by this time next year.
More of the manor born
It’s been positively heartening to see how many young players have been able to take to senior football and hurling so quickly. More seem able to cope with the stresses and stretches of it.
In football, Ryan McHugh has looked the part since he made his senior debut in 2013 while two-time All-Star Brian Fenton hasn’t missed a step nor suffered a championship loss from his first outing in May 2015. Hurling-wise, Ger Aylward will be welcomed back from injury after impressing in his first full season in 2015.
As for Tipperary pair Seamus Kennedy and Dan McCormack, who would have predicted this time last year they would have manned the flank of an All-Ireland winning team? There are soon-to-be Celtic Cross winners out there and we don’t yet know them.
A speedier HawkEye
As long as the correct call is made, it shouldn’t matter too much but HawkEye’s debut season in Thurles was a particularly slow one. The time it took for the score detection technology to alert the referee and everyone else to its decisions was tedious to say the least.
Obviously, it’s a slightly less sophisticated version of what’s in Croke Park but for a GAA hierarchy who loathe stoppages, it must be an issue. Let’s hope when it’s installed in the newly-constructed Páirc Uí Chaoimh, that it doesn’t appear like it has to be wound up to operate.
TV match official
The death of the black card has been called for by several pundits and county officials but there will be no shifting it. So what can be done to improve its administration? On-field team-work, as we’ve seen, hasn’t been much of a success (just think of some of the questionable decisions made by linesmen).
As things stand in Croke Park, there is a former referee acting as the HawkEye official. It wouldn’t take much for him or another official in an outside broadcast booth at a stadium to review borderline decisions. With a strict protocol, it wouldn’t be so intrusive on the flow of a game either.
End of replays
We have some misgivings about the calendar year and the squeeze it will put on clubs as much as counties.
The All-Ireland round robin series seems more focused on entertainment than equality too but there’s little doubt that eradicating the chance of championship replays would do clubs the world of good. Moving the All-Ireland finals to August is also a move banked in logic.
A lower death toll
This year will be remembered as one where too many in the world of arts and sport passed away. Gaelic games was no exception.Far too many left us.
To name but a few: Mickey “The Rattler” Byrne, Gerry Bennis, Jack Boothman, Mick Dolan, Jim Forbes, John Horgan, Greg Maher, Joe McDonagh, Danny Murphy, Billy Quinn, Fr Peter Quinn, Mick Roche, Peter Turley, Michael “Ducksy” Walsh.
May they rest in peace.
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