Michael Fennelly: Lower tier hurling ‘forgotten about and suppressed’

Michael Fennelly: Lower tier hurling ‘forgotten about and suppressed’

Offaly manager Michael Fennelly is congratulated by Offaly GAA chairman Michael Duignan at Croke Park. Photo by Piaras Ó Mí­dheach/Sportsfile

Offaly manager Michael Fennelly claims hurling’s lower tier competitions have been ‘forgotten about and suppressed’ by the GAA.

The Kilkenny great reckons football counties should be concerned that the same thing could happen to the new Tailteann Cup competition too.

Eight-time All-Ireland winner Fennelly guided Offaly to the Christy Ring Cup title on Sunday with a 21-point final defeat of Derry.

But he has hit out at what he believes is a lack of promotion of the competition, as well as the other lower tier tournaments, and questioned the National League structures too.

“I think the Christy Ring, Lory Meagher, Nickey Rackard (competitions) are kind of being forgotten about and suppressed,” said Fennelly.

“Let’s be honest about it, the promotion of it is very, very poor. That falls on the GAA and the broadcasting companies. Something has to be done about it.

“I’m not surprised there are football players concerned about this new tier two competition.

“I think it’s the right thing to do personally speaking but that’s from an outside point of view.

“They are afraid they will be forgotten about, that it will be suppressed, that they will not be on The Sunday Game.”

Westmeath won this year’s McDonagh Cup though Fennelly claimed the achievement largely passed the public by due to poor promotion.

“The Christy Ring, it might get 10 seconds, 20 seconds — that’s no good for kids to be inspired to play for Offaly, they want to be seen on The Sunday Game,” said the former All-Ireland winning skipper.

“They want to see their players or their role models on the TV, on RTÉ, on Sky, on TG4. I don’t know, I just feel a lot needs to be done for the promotion of the games. For me it’s not working and it’s not fit for purpose the way it is.”

Fennelly took aim at the National Hurling League structure too, claiming it does little to help teams promoted from Division 2A. Offaly won Division 2A this season but will be pitched in alongside Galway, Cork, Wexford, Clare, Cork, and Limerick next year.

“Any team that wins Division 2A and now they are going in playing All-Ireland champions, All-Ireland contenders, that’s just a huge step up,” said Fennelly.

“It doesn’t really do much for that team that’s going up, whether it’s a Kerry or a Carlow or an Offaly. I don’t think it helps to be honest.

“I get the concept of having two decent groups in Division 1A and 1B but in terms of the team coming up, after getting promoted and trying to stay up, it’s very difficult.

“Westmeath had a great year winning the Joe McDonagh but in the league gone by, they were being beaten by 20-plus points. Does that help a whole lot?

“We definitely need more competitive games but you don’t go from step one to step four. There needs to be step two, step three, step four.”

Offaly will aim to make more progress under Fennelly next year though the Ballyhale Shamrocks man isn’t guaranteed to remain at the helm.

“My contract is two years, I came in for two years so I need to sit down with the chairman and sit down with my wife and go through things.

“I’ve two boys at home, a 16-week-old and a two and a half-year-old and it’s a bit mental at home.

“The week we went back training, that was the week we had (baby) Billy so things have been fairly full on.”

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