Former Waterford senior manager John “Jackson” Kiely has deep reservations about the recent football forum having any positive impact on the game in the county.
According to board chairman Paddy Joe Ryan, “a corner was turned” at the three-hour meeting in Dungarvan earlier this month, which was attended by 100 club officials.
But Kiely poured cold water on that optimism, saying: “I don’t think it will achieve much. The status quo will prevail. The whole idea was to try and improve football within the county but it’s always going to be difficult. You’re looking at a county when there is over 50 clubs and almost all of them are dual clubs and hurling is number one.”
The county’s senior football semi-finals take place this weekend with The Nire facing Stradbally on Friday evening and Ballinacourty taking on Kilrossanty the following evening, Fraher Field hosting both games.
The final is scheduled for the Dungarvan venue the following Friday, a day or two before the county champions are scheduled to face Nemo Rangers in a Munster quarter-final at a Waterford venue. Dual difficulties aside, considering the Waterford footballers exited the All-Ireland qualifiers on June 20, it hardly sends out the right message.
“It’s a pity,” says Kiely, “because I believe whichever team wins would have stood a serious chance of beating Nemo Rangers if they had more time, even a week. Because Nemo are not like the team of old.
“To be honest, The Nire should have won the Munster final last year (they lost to Austin Stacks 3-5 to 2-4). Before that, Ballinacourty put Nemo Rangers to the pin of their collar in Killarney in ‘07 (1-10 to 1-7). Stradbally could have beaten Castlehaven in Clonakilty a few years ago (1-5 to 0-7).”
But Kiely’s issues with how football is being treated in the county extend beyond fixture difficulties. Whatever about senior level, he has been disappointed by how under-age hurling mentors have prevented dual players from lining out at other grades.
“I was involved with a couple of lads in the junior football team this year and we played Tipp in a double-header in Thurles. We missed two penalties, we lost by three points, but there were four good lads on the U21 hurling team and the management wouldn’t allow them to play with us. If we had them they would have won that match. Tipperary put it up to Kerry and Kerry won the All-Ireland.
“The U21 hurlers weren’t playing until July, five or six weeks later, but the hurling people will always have a strong hand.
“I was over the Waterford minor football team in 2013 and Sean Power was over the minor hurlers. We had a chat early in the year and I said, ‘Sean, there are six or seven really good young fellas who would make a real difference to our team’. I knew the minor hurlers would get very close to winning the All-Ireland and I said together we could get them fit.
“He was true to his word. Waterford won the minor hurling and we beat Limerick and went to Killarney and Kerry were very lucky to beat us. The bottom line is an awful lot of guys who are good at hurling are also good at football. I’d wish the guys involved in hurling were like Sean Power but they’re not.
“What they can’t see is that if they were allowed to play both games they would be better at hurling. I’d nine of that minor team that won the hurling All-Ireland in my panel. That never before happened in Waterford. And they were disappointed in losing to Kerry. Because they felt they were the best in the country in hurling they’d no problem feeling the same way about themselves in football.”
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