Former Mayo hurling coach Pete Finnerty argues the GAA has to stimulate hurling at Christy Ring Cup level to aid the development of the game.
Galway’s two-time All-Ireland winner, who presided over his neighbouring county between 2008 and ’10, feels it’s “grossly unfair” that the finals of each competition are played in Croke Park as early as June and are being treated by “second class citizens”.
Finnerty would like to see the Christy Ring Cup decider staged on the undercard of an All-Ireland final.
“There is no incentive for hurlers in football counties because what’s often the case is a good hurler is a good footballer,” explained Finnerty.
“Keith Higgins in Mayo would make any inter-county team and that’s not blowing smoke up his backside. His father is a Galway man and he’d be as happy playing hurling, would you believe it? But there’s an All-Ireland there as the carrot for the footballers.
“My argument is why are the Christy Ring and Nicky Rackard players treated as second-class citizens? Minor hurlers in strong hurling counties will see more of Croke Park than any good hurler in a weaker county.
“Galway have seen more minor finals than most but what good is to them compared to great hurlers who have never played in Croke Park? Why can’t a Christy Ring final be played on the biggest day? I’ve seen Christy Ring games just as good as minor games.
During his time with Mayo, Finnerty wanted for nothing in terms of gear, meals and travel for his players. But when it came to fixtures, there was only one winner.
“We drew with Wicklow in an All-Ireland quarter-final [in 2008] and it went to extra-time on a Saturday evening in Wicklow.
“The next day, there was championship football in Mayo so we had them back on a bus to go back and try and get some kind of recovery session before they went to bed to make sure they were okay.
“We were treated well by the county board in terms of gear, travel and meals but when it came to football it steam-rolled hurling completely.”
Finnerty is poles apart from Davy Fitzgerald in his opinion that football counties shouldn’t have much of a say in the make-up of the hurling league.
“What does Davy want them to do – stop playing hurling?
” I’ve seen men as passionate and as upset after losing a championship game in a Mayo dressing room as anyone in an All-Ireland one."
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved