'There is history there' - Glen Rovers looking forward to Middleton challenge

Midway through the ‘Up for the match’ event organised by Newtownshandrum in advance of the All-Ireland hurling final, a host of former inter-county players decried the current state of the club scene.

'There is history there' - Glen Rovers looking forward to Middleton challenge

Midway through the ‘Up for the match’ event organised by Newtownshandrum in advance of the All-Ireland hurling final, a host of former inter-county players decried the current state of the club scene.

Former Limerick hurlers Donal O’Grady and Stephen McDonagh bemoaned the lack of club activity from the end of April right through to August, while 2010 All-Ireland winning manager Liam Sheedy was critical of the decision not to resume the Tipperary club championship in the weeks after the county’s exit, on June 10, from the race for Liam MacCarthy.

We have had a phenomenal hurling championship, but I feel sorry for the club player,” said McDonagh. “They are being left out. Our own club, Bruree, played two championship matches in April and have done nothing since. That is something that badly needs to be looked at.

This was a point picked up on and expanded by Limerick’s 2013 Munster final winning captain, Donal O’Grady: “That the All-Ireland championship has been so good covers over some of the problems at grassroots. It is so important the club is given priority at Congress. You can see during the summer lads are heading off to the States. For the lads that are hanging around, it is difficult to keep the show on the road for the few months. Trying to get a challenge game is next to near impossible. Going out playing games when you are missing five, six, seven lads is demoralising. It has to be looked at.”

This evening in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Glen Rovers and Midleton clash in the third round of the Cork senior hurling championship.

It is 18 weeks since both teams played their sole championship match of 2018, but you certainly won’t hear Richie Kelleher complaining.

For the Glen Rovers manager, less has most definitely been more in 2018.

Where this year they have been without a single championship match during the months of May, June, July and August, in 2017, they played five during this period. That long campaign eventually caught up with them, with the Glen’s three-in-a-row county title bid ending against Na Piarsaigh in round four on the second weekend of September.

There have been fewer [championship] games this year, which I am okay about it. We should be fresher,” reasoned Kelleher.

“Last year, even though we were county champions, we were first out of the hat and had to play a preliminary round. Then, we had to play Sars; then there was the Barrs’, a tough match; Cork IT after that, which we drew. We had five games played by the time we got to Na Piarsaigh and had, in my opinion, nothing left in the legs. This year, we’ve had our break. The last month or two we have taken very seriously and so the lads should be bursting for Saturday.”

Having taken over the team in 2014, last year was the first season during his tenure where they had no involvement on county final Sunday.

It in no way, however, lessens the appetite to return for the current campaign.

“I was kind of leaning towards staying,” Kelleher explained, “but I obviously wanted everyone to stay with me.

We had a chat over Christmas. We knew from the conversation that we all wanted to stay. That said, if the players had thrown their hat at it, weren’t putting in the effort or there was messing over the winter, we would have said that these fellas are not tuned in for next year.

"They knew if they were determined and willing to put it in once more that we’d stay. We are not here to babysit anyone. But they are really driven, very focused.”

Kelleher brought Dermot O’Callaghan and former Cork hurler Seanie McGrath into his backroom team for the new season.

The latter, no more than Kelleher, has plenty of experience of coming up against the Magpies.

“There is history there, of course,” the Glen manager continues. “I’d go back as far as the 1991 county final. I won’t say we were disgraced, but we never turned up. I was only 16 or 17 going down to watch it. Midleton won pulling up. I played myself against them in a fourth-round game. It was the first time in my life that I got sent off. They beat us the same day down the park. The 2015 semi-final could have gone either way. Midleton put it up to us.

"There is never anything between us. There never should be between the top teams. If we deliver, we hope it will be good enough.”

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