Tribal feuds linger on

This day last week, former Galway defender Greg Kennedy took to Facebook to unload his thoughts about the state of hurling in the county.

Tribal feuds linger on

Responding to a message that it was madness the Gort-Portumna senior final was only taking place a day later, he wrote: “There are a lot of problems in Galway hurling — this is a small one. Lucky the senior final is even going ahead. One public controversy after another... Galway hurling in reverse I’m afraid and will take a long time to get Galway hurling to where it thinks it is... Or where it can be!!”

It was of course Turloughmore’s appeal against being dumped out of the championship that held up proceedings. They had been deemed to have played an illegal player, although keen observers of the scene in Galway will tell you several more clubs were fortunate to avoid a similar fate.

Kennedy’s comments came in the same week county chairman Noel Treacy and outgoing hurling committee chairman Joe Byrne clashed in spectacular fashion.

Byrne accused Treacy of “scant” attendance at hurling committee meetings this year but his main beef was that he was not able to publicly announce who he claimed the hurling clubs wanted to succeed him as hurling chairman.

Byrne said: “We have developed a monster, guys, but make sure the monster doesn’t eat us. I mean that. All we want to do here as a hurling committee is make a recommendation. And by the way, it wasn’t an election. With all due respect now, I don’t want to be lectured (by Treacy). We are a hurling committee trying to promote hurling in Galway.”

The differences between Byrne and Treacy may stem back to the decision by the selection committee in September to reappoint Anthony Cunningham as senior manager for three more years.

It’s been said the pair had a difference in opinion, Byrne favouring Cunningham’s former selector Mattie Kenny. Ex-boss Conor Hayes had been in the group, but after publicly expressing his support for Cunningham, he stepped aside and was not replaced.

It’s fair to say some officials on the once almost autonomous hurling board have found it difficult to come to terms with being a mere sub-committee. Not being able to chose their own leaders has caused upset. However, the disbandment of the hurling and football boards was a deal-breaker in the agreement struck by Croke Park and the Galway County Board to pay a €5 million infrastructure debt last year.

Without it, Galway would be in great peril but there’s a strong school of thought in the county that would reply to that: ‘What’s new?’

Although, there is hope the more the board realises it’s a committee, the better it will be for hurling in the county.

“What we can’t afford to do is let down another generation,” said former Galway manager and hurling PRO, Jarlath Cloonan.

“How many fine minor hurlers have we had and where are they now? That’s down to us. My hope would be the committee concentrates on how we develop our hurlers, instead of focusing on administration. Too much time has been wasted.”

Those like Kennedy will only believe it when they see it. The Loughrea man was actually interviewed for the minor manager’s position but felt his chances were slim when he refused to reveal his management team as a number of them were in discussions for other positions.

Geoff Lynskey was eventually appointed and from his experience with the U17 development team this season there is optimism he can help bridge the gaping crevasse between underage and senior in ranks in Galway.

That may require a culture change. The sense Galway spoil their minors has never gone away. Their teens have been known to be awarded with suits and other finery for reaching All-Ireland finals; the likes of Kilkenny have got by with new tracksuit tops.

At least this year, Galway made attempts to rectify their “seeding” in the minor and U21 All-Ireland championships by asking to join Leinster.

Interestingly, the same request wasn’t extended to the club hurling competitions. Leinster said “no” anyway, and it doesn’t appear they’ll be for changing any time soon.

Galway’s main issues aren’t exclusively exterior. For one, refereeing is also considered a problem area in the county. There are no fitness tests, rules exams or official assessments of referees performances. A significant proportion of referees, around 30 to 40%, are 60 or over and continue to take charge of senior championship games. Clubs don’t dictate who officiates games, but it’s been claimed some have been to able to ensure who doesn’t simply by writing a letter.

Thursday week marks 27 years since they last held aloft the Liam MacCarthy Cup. As long as they remain divided, that wait is set to continue.

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