Kildare captain Eanna O’Neill rues quick-fire approach to Christy Ring Cup

If you’re the friend or relative of a player with Christy Ring Cup ambitions, now may be a good time to say whatever you need to say to them.

Chances are they’ll be otherwise engaged for the next few week as the GAA’s lower tier hurling competitions get underway and are run off at a terrific pace.

The action officially begins tomorrow though holders Kildare will travel to Dublin Airport today for a flight to London in advance of their Round 1 tie in Ruislip.

The following Saturday they will play a Round 2 tie and, depending on the outcome of that match, could be back in action on May 16 too.

After that, weekends number four and five are reserved for the semi-finals and final, completing the entire tournament in just 36 days.

The set-up is in marked contrast to the first staging of the competition 10 years ago when the tournament began on June 4 and ran throughout the high season until August 14, exactly 72 days, double the current allotted time.

“May 2 is still a good starting point for your first round but at least put in two to three weeks of a break between every game after that,” said Kildare captain Eanna O’Neill. “At least let the team get set back up and on its feet.

“If you pick up an injury in week one, that’s your season gone realistically. We’re working with a panel of 30 at the moment so if you were to pick up three knocks every week, which is fairly plausible, you’re down to a panel of 20 before you know where you are.”

The eight teams that begin this year’s competition - Kildare, Kerry, Down, Derry, Mayo, London, Meath and Wicklow - at least know that should they win the title then they will play in the MacCarthy Cup next year.

That decision was taken at Annual Congress in spring though came 12 agonising months too late for Kildare. After beating Kerry in last year’s final, they had to travel to Westmeath seven days later to play Westmeath in a promotion/relegation play-off and lost.

O’Neill is adamant they ‘definitely shouldn’t have had to play that game’ though he accepts little can be done at this stage and is looking to the positives.

“Maybe with the few retirements we had after last year we might have needed another year in the Christy Ring, just to bring on the younger players coming from the U-21s,” he said.

“Because there’s a good influx of them, probably about seven or eight brand new panellists this year who haven’t hurled Christy Ring previously. To throw them them in at the deep end into a round robin system in the Leinster championship probably wouldn’t have suited us the greatest.”

Kildare found Meath stiff opposition in last year’s semi-final and more recently required a strong second-half to shrug off the Royals in the Division 2B league final.

But the Lilies will undoubtedly view Kerry as their biggest rivals.

Kerry were surprisingly beaten in last year’s final by Kildare but sent out a significant spring statement by gaining promotion to Division 1B of the league.

O’Neill believes Kildare’s county board could take a leaf out of Kerry’s book when it comes to promoting the game in a football dominated county.

“From talking to the hurling boys in Kerry, they get great back up there to promote the game,” he said. “If our county board could row in behind us a bit more it would be great.”


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