Hurling and football are under the one GAA umbrella. Therefore, this writer finds it inexcusable that Kilkenny can be the recurring holders of Liam McCarthy yet fail to field a football team in National League or senior championship.
Kilkenny footballers did win some silverware this year but incredibly it wasn’t even on these shores. Rather, they defeated Scotland (not entirely representing that nation’s populace) in The British Junior Championship final.
How much that title means to any of the players involved, and whether your average Joe on the streets of Noreside is even aware of it, is highly questionable. However, the most significant aspect of this victory was that it was achieved with the help of one David Herity.
Herity is a five-time hurling winner with the Cats, who just called time on that career last autumn. This writer believes he is the perfect example of how the county’s hurling heroes, who are all fine athletes and sportsmen, can bring their winning mentality to the other side of Gaelic games.
There are three legends of Kilkenny hurling sitting on nine senior medals, namely Noel Hickey, J.J. Delaney and Tommy Walsh. A Kilkenny hurling starting 15 jersey is beyond them now, so why not take on the relatively easier challenge of playing in the Kilkenny Gaelic football team? This year’s side was just two wins away from an All-Ireland Cup. With this array of stars on board, who’s to say they couldn’t move it up a notch?
Of course there is still the problem of getting the Kilkenny public interested. This writer believes that seeing these legends togging out would garner interest but to really capture the imagination a name such as D.J. Carey should be brought in to manage the side, at least jointly.
In fact Brian Cody should man up to this task as well. He has already cemented his reputation as the greatest hurling manager of all time, but if he was to win something with the footballers he would be the greatest GAA coach of them all, above even the great Mick O’.
Interestingly, Carey wanted to choose football over hurling at the ripe old age of 12, but found out that it was the also-ran down there, so he picked up the camán instead. The rest is history.
Jackie Tyrell is another man who could be persuaded to take up the footballing cause. Recently he had a go at baseball, for God’s sake. It’s much easier to change from hurling to football rather than the other way around, and this writer’s certainly not calling for the Gooch to don the green and gold for next year’s Leinster Hurling Championship.
However, Paul Galvin plays top level hurling in Kerry whilst picking up football All-Irelands, so why shouldn’t hurlers do the same?
Some of Kilkenny’s clubs have won both hurling and football county titles. James Stephens are a leading example of this with nine hurling and seven football crowns. Indeed one of Ireland’s finest club hurling sides, Ballyhale Shamrocks, have won three football titles, albeit not since 1982.
That is three years after the birth of the greatest hurler of all time, Henry Shefflin. He is the final piece of the puzzle in my masterplan for the rehabilitation of Kilkenny football.
If King Henry suited up for an assault on the All-Ireland Junior Championship the whole county would row in behind him. So, Sheff, if you are reading this please give up your coaching of Ballyhale’s under-6 team and deliver victory to your subjects on a new battlefield.
Patrick Conway, Pundit Arena