Leinster's minor disasters - Tribune article (09/01/2000)

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Leinster's minor disasters - Tribune article (09/01/2000)

Postby Bord na Mona man » Tue Apr 21, 2009 10:30 am

A decade later, how much has changed?
Leinster's minor disasters - Sunday Tribune article (09-Jan-2000)

Enda McEvoy
A chronic imbalance in the province's underage hurling may be reversed, but it could take another decade. Enda McEvoy reports
WHEN Richie Power took over as manager of the Kilkenny under-21 side 12 months ago, a friend who was aware that the Leinster champions in the grade would be meeting their Ulster counterparts in the All Ireland semi-final told him that only one serious test lay between Power's team and national glory.

Power's pal clearly knew what he was talking about.Kilkenny sauntered to the All Ireland final and won it, beating Galway by two points after a mighty struggle.Unhappily, the prediction said rather more about the state of underage hurling in Leinster: that the man could make the call so easily ? and be so confident he'd be proven right.

This is a province where the same county won every minor title decided during the 1990s, where former giants St Peter's of Wexford haven't been colleges' champions for nearly 20 years, where the Offaly minors of 1999 succumbed by five points to Westmeath.

If minor and under-21 hurling in Leinster has been woefully uncompetitive at times in the past 10 years, how can counties from the province be seriously expected to make waves in the All Ireland series during the next 10? And to come anywhere near repeating their five McCarthy Cup triumphs of the 1990s?

The voices of the province's great and good form a bridge of sighs.Michael Delaney, secretary of the Leinster Council, laments the fact that Kilkenny have been clocking up titles "without having to do anything particularly special"Pat Teehan, the Offaly Bord na nÓg chairman, admits that his county "simply haven't been competitive enough" in the underage arena in recent years and that pleas about demographic difficulties must not be advanced as an excuse.

Liam O'Neill, the new Laois county secretary, points out that as Laois never have more than 80 to 100 prospective minors on the books at any given time ? "Dublin probably have more players registered in Ballyboden and Kilmacud than we have in the entire county, "? the task of competing on an equal footing with Kilkenny and Wexford is a non-runner.

The extent to which Leinster has devolved into a one-party state in the under-18 age group has been widely aired. Eleven years have elapsed since Offaly were provincial minor champions, 15 years since Wexford's last success, 17 years since Dublin triumphed and 36 years since Laois had their day. Equally, it's 32 years since Wexford were All Ireland minor champions and 35 since Dublin were, while Laois have never won the title.

But there's much more to the cracks in the floor than mere statistical lacunae.Try this unedifying little line of form from last year's Leinster under-21 championship.Wexford demolished Laois by 4-17 to 1-9 in the quarter-final, but were themselves outclassed 2-13 to 0-10 in the semi-final by Offaly, who were in turn defeated 1-17 to 1-6 by Kilkenny in the final.Of the two obvious conclusions to be drawn ? the abject absence of competitiveness and the gulf between the future senior hurlers of Laois and Kilkenny (37 points at face value) ? it is difficult to know which is the more worrying.

The outlook might not be so bad were the chasing pack, led of late by Wexford, being outsprinted by super Kilkenny teams.

They're not.For all their provincial baubles, Kilkenny have failed to win an All Ireland minor title since 1993.

"While we're still winning Leinster in minor, we're not producing the quality of underage players that we used to, " explains Brendan O'Sullivan, who has coached the county to All Ireland minor and under-21 success."Years ago you could pick out an outstanding under-14 player in nearly every parish, a guy who stuck out a mile, the likes of Liam Fennelly, Paddy Prendergast and Joe Hennessy 30 years ago, DJ Carey and Pat O'Neill 15 years ago.

That doesn't happen any more.

"The other part of it is that under-21 hurling in Leinster has become too predictable ? all you need do is refer to what happened in minor three years earlier.That's why I think an open draw under-21 All Ireland would be a step forward." Yet what else can Kilkenny do except to stay plugging away as they are, county chairman Ned Quinn asks."It would be better if other counties were coming through ? but by them getting better, not by Kilkenny disimproving. For the good of any game, honours going around is preferable to honours staying in the one place. But we in Kilkenny can't stand aside. If somebody else comes along and beats us, we'll be the first to shake hands with them.Until then, our ambition is to be successful." The situation in Offaly is overshadowed by the memory of the three All Ireland minor-winning teams of the late 1980s and the stylists (Whelahan, Troy, Johnny Dooley) they yielded.The ensuing famine hasn't been a disaster, Pat Teehan claims, insofar as Offaly have been "picking up one or two lads"from minor level most seasons.

The good news for the county, he adds, is that the coming crop of minors looks the best for ages."We'd be disappointed if Offaly don't win a Leinster minor title either this year or in 2001." Sunnier skies are likewise forecast in Laois, where decades of underage disorganisation have given way to improved structures and professional preparations under county mentors who include PJ Cuddy and John Taylor.The past season offered Laois a glimpse of what the future might hold for them.

The under-14s competed in the A section in the Tony Forristal tournament and beat Offaly.The under-15s captured a provincial B crown and most notably of all, the under-16s, having reached the final of the Leinster League, disposed of Offaly and Kilkenny in the Nenagh Co-op tournament.

Another five McCarthy Cups heading to Leinster in the coming decade? Surely not.Perhaps in the decade after that, though.

LEINSTER MINOR HURLING FINALS IN THE 1990S 1990: Kilkenny 3-15 Laois 0-15 1991: Kilkenny 1-20 Laois 0-4 1992: Kilkenny 1-9 Wexford 0-11 1993: Kilkenny 4-14 Dublin 0-11 1994: Kilkenny 2-13 Offaly 3-6 1995: Kilkenny 4-16 Offaly 2-6 1996: Kilkenny 1-16 Dublin 1-11 1997: Kilkenny 3-16 Offaly 0-10 1998: Kilkenny 1-11 Wexford 1-11 (draw) Kilkenny 2-15 Wexford 0-6 (replay) 1999: Kilkenny 0-13 Wexford 0-13 (draw) Kilkenny 2-13 Wexford 1-11 (replay)
January 9, 2000
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