It’s 1998… with a few changes

TOMORROW night in Thurles Gerald McCarthy and Ger Loughnane stalk the sidelines once again, while Joe Dooley and Davy Fitzgerald will also cross swords. It’s like 1998 all over again, though without the three priests, late-night Munster Council meetings, pitch occupations by disgruntled fans, and games being whistled up two minutes early.

Well, there’s been none of that so far. It’s only July, remember.

Given the way the chips have fallen for this weekend’s games, that recent RTE documentary, Who Fears To Speak Of ‘98, couldn’t have been more timely. The documentary, which focussed on that never-to-be-
forgotten summer, brought back to vivid life the two Munster hurling
finals of that season, not to mention the disciplinary shenanigans afterwards and the Offaly-Clare marathon.

Back then Ger Loughnane had led a team from the wilderness; nowadays he’s trying to do the same with Galway. The similarities don’t quite align perfectly, however. The Clare model of ‘98 was a battle-hardened group whose fearsome defence backboned their two All-Ireland victories.

This Galway team is a reverse image of that Clare side: spearheaded by Joe Canning but with doubts hanging over the rearguard. That’s not the only difference, of course. Ger Loughnane famously addressed the Banner nation in the middle of the season 10 years ago, but silence has radiated from across the Shannon for most of the year. Who fears to speak in ‘08?

His adversary 10 years ago on the sideline was Gerald McCarthy, then with Waterford. The Déise didn’t quite make it out of the wilderness under McCarthy’s watch, though most observers would credit the foundations he laid as forming the basis for his namesake Justin’s success in collecting three Munster championships and a National league title. Gerald, not Justin, was the manager who introduced the likes of Ken McGrath and John Mullane to senior intercounty hurling, though they fully blossomed under his successor.

Like Ger Loughnane, Gerald McCarthy’s present post is also a neat opposite to the challenges he faced with his former side. Where Waterford were a young team with potential, looking to gain experience of the big occasion, Cork have all the experience you could want, and then some. Several players have three All-Ireland medals, and many have played in four consecutive All-Ireland finals.

The gloom on Leeside at present is presumably based on the fact that none of those players are getting younger, not to mention a laboured victory over Dublin.

In 1998 Gerald McCarthy had a young team who knew there was always tomorrow; for some of his current charges tomorrow may be very close indeed.

The other two managers taking to the sidelines tomorrow night, Joe Dooley of Offaly and Davy Fitzgerald of Waterford, figured prominently in 1998 as well, of course. Dooley
already has a significant scalp this
season, in Limerick, but he too is in
a far different camp compared to a decade ago.

Back then Offaly were a seasoned bunch, dripping with All-Ireland
minor and senior medals, not to
mention a loudly trumpeted reputation as the biggest travelling party in the GAA.

A few weeks ago this reporter saw Dooley emerge from the dressing-rooms in Portlaoise after a trimming by Kilkenny, and the players who came out behind him were as fresh-faced as you’d expect from a senior squad with 12 U-21 players on it.

 

Dooley has also had to learn how to reverse his thinking, putting aside the
environment he operated in 10 years ago, and dealing with a new reality.

As for the Waterford manager… well, anyone who would have suggested in 1998 that Davy Fitzgerald would become boss of the Déise would have been treated to his or her comrades gathering up their drinks and edging away slowly.

Because the appointment’s been overtaken by other events, it doesn’t make it any less unusual, and if anyone’s had to reverse their thinking, it’s Davy.

Who feared to predict in ‘98?

contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

Munster final offer is just the ticket

THREE cheers for the Munster Council.


Well, we give out about administration and administrators often enough, so credit where it’s due.

Whoever came up with the idea of giving out two tickets for the price of one for Sunday’s Munster football final deserves a promotion, or a car pass, or extra chocolate Swiss roll at half-time or some other form of recognition.

The easiest thing in the world would have been to hold the hands over the ears and cross the fingers — not at the same time, obviously — and hope that people would rediscover some kind of obligation to travel. Instead they preempted the problem. Nobody expects the record capacity of Páirc Uí Chaoimh to come under threat on Sunday, but what’s the betting that on Monday people will be saying “Imagine if there hadn’t been a two-for-one deal?”

That isn’t the end of the kudos for the Munster Council, by the way: lately they’ve introduced a measure to facilitate teams and media by bringing managers and selected players to a press room for interviews after a game.

That probably doesn’t mean an awful lot to most of our readers this morning, but if you have never had the dubious pleasure of stepping over the sprawled gear-bags and empty water bottles in an inter-county dressing room to ask a naked corner-forward reeking of Lynx Snake-peel Shower Gel how he in fact managed to score that last point … well, you’re not missing a whole lot. The press are happy because they have a few quotes, the players are happy because it’s all over and done with in a few minutes.

A little bit of structure which helps everyone out, and nobody is remotely nostalgic for the whiff of adidas Team Force deodorant.

ANYWAY. Back to the crowds. In Leinster there’s a crowd problem of a different order, and it’s not just a matter of smart comments about offering four tickets for the price of one for the Leinster hurling final this weekend (Though given the crowd we’re likely to see this weekend, the argument for a toss of venue between Kilkenny and Wexford is pretty strong).

Last Sunday we had the unedifying sight of yet another Dublin game being held up to accommodate latecomers, a situation which left “beyond a joke” in the rear view mirror many moons ago.

The day can’t be far away when dummy throw-in times are given out to entice spectators into Croke Park within some kind of ass’s roar of a workable starting point. That can only happen with the full collusion of the Garda authorities, stadium management and broadcasting partners, of course, but what about the teams involved?

Right now every team which comes into Croke Park to take on Dublin in championship action knows there’s a good to fair chance that that game won’t be starting on time. That kind of uncertainty impacts hugely on team preparation, particularly in those crucial few minutes before the players take the field.

Don’t underestimate the significance of those few minutes: former Cork hurling manager Donal O’Grady is on record as saying that his players’ preparation was seriously put out when they were held back in the tunnel under the Hogan Stand by stewards before the 2003 final.

For teams trying to make the big breakthrough, getting to the right emotional pitch in the dressing room is hard enough — lowering the temperature when you’re informed that the crowd haven’t made it out of the Cat and Cage is a complication that isn’t needed.

None of that is Paul Caffrey’s fault, nor that of his players or county board. They can’t get their supporters in any quicker than anyone else.

Maybe something should be offered to those supporters. If a two-for-one deal works in Munster, a money-back offer if you’re a Dublin fan who can make it to Croke Park on time might work.

You’d be rewarding Dubliners for doing what people from Beara and Achill and Letterkenny do without a problem every summer, of course. But what’s the alternative?

Contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

Munster final offer is just the ticket

THREE cheers for the Munster Council.


Well, we give out about administration and administrators often enough, so credit where it’s due.

Whoever came up with the idea of giving out two tickets for the price of one for Sunday’s Munster football final deserves a promotion, or a car pass, or extra chocolate Swiss roll at half-time or some other form of recognition.

The easiest thing in the world would have been to hold the hands over the ears and cross the fingers — not at the same time, obviously — and hope that people would rediscover some kind of obligation to travel. Instead they preempted the problem. Nobody expects the record capacity of Páirc Uí Chaoimh to come under threat on Sunday, but what’s the betting that on Monday people will be saying “Imagine if there hadn’t been a two-for-one deal?”

That isn’t the end of the kudos for the Munster Council, by the way: lately they’ve introduced a measure to facilitate teams and media by bringing managers and selected players to a press room for interviews after a game.

That probably doesn’t mean an awful lot to most of our readers this morning, but if you have never had the dubious pleasure of stepping over the sprawled gear-bags and empty water bottles in an inter-county dressing room to ask a naked corner-forward reeking of Lynx Snake-peel Shower Gel how he in fact managed to score that last point … well, you’re not missing a whole lot. The press are happy because they have a few quotes, the players are happy because it’s all over and done with in a few minutes.

A little bit of structure which helps everyone out, and nobody is remotely nostalgic for the whiff of adidas Team Force deodorant.

ANYWAY. Back to the crowds. In Leinster there’s a crowd problem of a different order, and it’s not just a matter of smart comments about offering four tickets for the price of one for the Leinster hurling final this weekend (Though given the crowd we’re likely to see this weekend, the argument for a toss of venue between Kilkenny and Wexford is pretty strong).

Last Sunday we had the unedifying sight of yet another Dublin game being held up to accommodate latecomers, a situation which left “beyond a joke” in the rear view mirror many moons ago.

The day can’t be far away when dummy throw-in times are given out to entice spectators into Croke Park within some kind of ass’s roar of a workable starting point. That can only happen with the full collusion of the Garda authorities, stadium management and broadcasting partners, of course, but what about the teams involved?

Right now every team which comes into Croke Park to take on Dublin in championship action knows there’s a good to fair chance that that game won’t be starting on time. That kind of uncertainty impacts hugely on team preparation, particularly in those crucial few minutes before the players take the field.

Don’t underestimate the significance of those few minutes: former Cork hurling manager Donal O’Grady is on record as saying that his players’ preparation was seriously put out when they were held back in the tunnel under the Hogan Stand by stewards before the 2003 final.

For teams trying to make the big breakthrough, getting to the right emotional pitch in the dressing room is hard enough — lowering the temperature when you’re informed that the crowd haven’t made it out of the Cat and Cage is a complication that isn’t needed.

None of that is Paul Caffrey’s fault, nor that of his players or county board. They can’t get their supporters in any quicker than anyone else.

Maybe something should be offered to those supporters. If a two-for-one deal works in Munster, a money-back offer if you’re a Dublin fan who can make it to Croke Park on time might work.

You’d be rewarding Dubliners for doing what people from Beara and Achill and Letterkenny do without a problem every summer, of course. But what’s the alternative?

Contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie