October 7, 2011 10:03 by JohnF
ON Twitter last night, Kerry’s All-Star nominee Killian Young made a most obvious point about last night’s 2012 championship draw.
“I think it should be made after the league campaign to draw more interest and excitement,” typed the defender.
In an ideal world that would be the case but as an amateur organisation with a mammoth club scene to consider the GAA needs to be planning fixtures from months out. As much as the championship should run along familiar lines next year, fixture planning is a most delicate process and necessitates time.
Staging the draw just weeks away from the start of the championship would create as much logistical problems for the Association as it would for the TV companies who require due notice.
Holding the draw in October also takes advantage of the after-glow of last month’s All-Ireland finals. While Ireland’s fortunes in the rugby World Cup has arrested the attention of the public and the soccer team, Gaelic games is still very much in the public conscience after the deciders and the All Stars set to be named in two weeks’ time also rides on the coat-tails of the GAA's two centre-pieces.
There was nothing exactly gripping in Croke Park last night but what it did was give players, managers and supporters focus.
Tipperary midfielder Shane McGrath, known to be bitterly disappointed with his All-Ireland final performance last month, admitted on Twitter he was keeping his fingers crossed they would avoid Cork after facing them first out for the last three seasons.
No dates were confirmed last night but as soon as they are they will be quoted ad nauseam by players and managers alike. “Our only focus is May X.” “The only thing that matters to us is June X.”
Whether they will admit it or not, last night’s draw will have helped to make veterans’ minds up about remaining on for another season. Any doubts in the heads of Limerick’s evergreens were likely cast aside after avoiding Kerry and Cork on their prospective path to a Munster SFC final.
Likewise, the opportunity to avenge this year’s qualifier defeat to Tyrone is all but sure to whet 32-year-old Armagh captain Stevie McDonnell’s appetite for one more year at least.
For managers, with the draw being made so early they have no excuses for not knowing what’s ahead of them. In tandem with their coaches they can plan ahead for provincial championships where, like Kerry, they might have to be peaking earlier than they would usually expect to.
As misguided as it might be, supporters are more likely to believe anything is possible in October. The hope of their county winning a first provincial title in so many years will be sustained over the winter months because there are so many imponderables.
Had the draw been made after relegation in the league or a lowly finish, their expectations mightn’t be so high but for now they can dare to dream.
Certainly, the likes of Down and Monaghan will be taking one look at their fortune in Ulster and be thinking they each have excellent chances of making the provincial decider.
In football, the successes of Dublin and Donegal this year will contribute to plenty of aspirational thinking. This time last year Dublin were deemed to have blown their greatest chance of winning an All-Ireland when they surrendered their lead to Cork in the semi-final. This time last year Donegal were dismissed as a team who played a brand of football that was pretty on the eye and right into the hands of their opponents.
The concern is Dublin and Donegal’s ways and means of achieving success will be replicated by others while ignoring the strengths they currently possess.
Nobody wants to see Gaelic football played in a uniform way but such has been the success of the two counties in breaking down doors they are examples to lesser teams.
If putting x amount of players behind the ball is going to win a county a first provincial title in umpteen years then to hell with the means – the ends will do quite nicely, thank you very much.
Hurling doesn’t have as many issues although the fact we’re coming off yet another poor championship is something that has to be considered (we believe the laissez-faire refereeing is a contributory factor... a story for another day).
But last night’s draw has done nothing to detract from the feelgood factor emanating in Clare where Davy Fitzgerald, a man with a proven track record in Waterford, is about to take charge.
Even in his old stomping ground of Waterford the absence of a manager has been offset somewhat by there only being 70 minutes between them and a fourth consecutive Munster final appearance.
On paper, making a draw eight months in advance for competitions that have been made redundant somewhat by the qualifiers shouldn’t really work.
For some counties, they are but a starter for 10. But for the majority, they are everything. As long as that truism prevails, provincial championships have a place. By extension, waiting for them has a place too.