IF you keep knocking on the door often enough somebody will surely eventually open it, if for no other reason than to stop you pestering them.
As regards Carbery hurling we intend to keep knocking and knocking until such time as those with the power to do something will eventually concede that there is a reason for us standing on the doorstep.
On Thursday night last Carbery divisional hurlers were defeated by CIT in the first round of the divisional/colleges section of the county championship. It was a gallant display by the players who committed themselves to the Carbery cause but it was always doomed as the lack of preparation beforehand came home to roost. No fault of a dedicated management team but the weather and pitch conditions in particular played havoc with their plans over the past few months.
While every defeat is a disaster of sorts, this loss was doubly so as the divisions and colleges were not given any second chance in the championship this season, unlike the clubs.
What’s sauce for the goose certainly isn’t sauce for the gander in Cork GAA circles when it comes to the divisions. The Carbery team that played on Thursday last probably won’t get together again until this time next year, if the decision is made to continue to participate in championship.
Participation in the 2018 championship was touch and go. Several meetings were held at divisional board level to discuss the issue before the decision was finally made to take part, mainly because of the commitment of the management team and the eagerness of some junior clubs to take part. In hindsight one must now question that decision.
Last season, 2017, saw the Carbery hurlers recording a rare win in the senior hurling championship, but that gave a false lift because the Avondhu team they defeated was short many of its best hurlers on the day.
That game gave Carbery two more games in the championship but the truth bit home when they were annihilated by Na Piarsaigh, 1-29 to 0-9, and hammered by Killeagh, 3-23 to 1-15. No fault of the players who lined out but they were out of their depth on both occasions.
Carbery have also fielded a minor hurling team in the county premier championship for the past four years and that was a work in progress. In their first year, 2014, they surprised by winning the premier 2 championship, with some fine, promising young hurlers on board. Some clubs then objected to their participation in that championship as a division, so they were only allowed in by upgrading to premier 1, taking on the best minor teams in the county. They have competed well in that grade in the past three years, a great experience for the minor hurlers in Carbery who were used to playing two or three grades lower with their clubs.
Following their victory in the 2014 Premier 2 minor championship, the Carbery board applied to the county senior board for permission to enter a team in the county U21A championship, in order to keep that successful minor team together and build them eventually into a competitive senior team. Duhallow had been going down that road for some years and it had really raised the standards in that division.
Unfortunately, the county board refused to share in Carbery’s dream of improving hurling in West Cork by competing with the best from minor, through U21 and into senior, and they turned down the request. It was a hammer-blow to those with a genuine interest in Carbery hurling.
To compound that refusal, the Rebel Óg Board has now also decided to prevent the Carbery minor hurling team from taking part in the championship in 2018, as if they were a danger to any of the top minor clubs.
The winning minors of 2014 are now 22 years of age and should all be fighting for places on the Carbery senior team, yet on Thursday last only three of them started and a fourth came on as a sub, another example of a lost generation of hurlers here in Carbery. What good is that doing for Cork hurling?
We now have no divisional minor or U21 teams to try to build a panel for the senior team and to raise the standards of the players involved. A senior hurling team that, under the present championship system, is guaranteed only one game a year, and that game in the month of March before many of the hurling teams in the division have even caught a hurley or played a league game.
If someone tried to come up with a plan to sabotage hurling in West Cork they couldn’t have come up with a better one. Have we now arrived at a stage in Cork hurling that the powers-that-be will only recognise part of the county in its plans for hurling? Unless you’re from a strong hurling division like Imokilly, you’re not wanted at the top table, that’s the message we hurling people in Carbery are getting from the county board at present.
But we can’t lay all the ills for Carbery’s hurling fortunes at the doorstep of the county board. God helps those who help themselves, they say, and we here in Carbery haven’t anything to be proud of in the way we’ve treated our Carbery hurling team down the years.
To make any impression in the senior championship Carbery needs its best hurlers in the Carbery jersey. The promotion of Newcestown and Bandon to senior in recent years, something all West Cork hurling people are proud of, has, unfortunately, deprived the divisional team of its strongest hurlers.
That slack should have been taken up by the three intermediate clubs in the division but right now all three are struggling to survive in the intermediate grade. On the team that lined out against CIT last week, Kilbrittain had two players involved, Barryroe had one and Argideen Rangers had none. It should be noted too, that neither of last season’s junior A finalists, Clonakilty and Ballinascarthy, had a single player involved.
If Carbery are to make any impression, even become competitive, at senior level, they must have the full backing of all the hurling clubs in the division and must have their best 15 players on the pitch. This certainly hasn’t been happening in recent years for a variety of reasons. Not only must the clubs and the players support the team but the board must then organise time for the panel to prepare properly for the championship.
When Carbery have sorted out their own house they can then start knocking hard again on the door of the county board, demanding equal status with the clubs in the senior championship (a second chance), the acceptance of a Carbery U21 hurling team in the new premier U21 county championships, and the re-instatement of the Carbery minor team in their championship.
There are two old Irish seanfhocail that come to mind when we think of Carbery hurling and its place in Cork – ‘At scath a chéile a mhaireann na daoine’ and ‘Ní neart go cur le chéile.’ In short, unless we all pull together, and not against each other, then there is little hope of ever improving hurling in West Cork.