All change – but no real change

You’d have to wonder what Eddie Brennan made of it all. Last season, the Kilkenny great and former pundit facilitated significant progress for the Laois hurlers. Culminating in promotion in the National League and Championship via the Joe McDonagh Cup.

Some months later, unwittingly recorded conversations between Brennan and the outspoken and opionated former Laois footballer turned broadcaster Colm Parkiinson ended up in the public domain.

As divisive as the Portlaoise clubman can be, I would like to think the broadcast of what was meant to be an ‘off the record’ conversation was a genuine mistake. For me, it shouldn’t have even been an issue, apart from the interviewer apologising to his guest.

Basically, the man from Graigue-Ballycallan maintained that for all the undeniable progress and success the county had enjoyed under his direction, the feeling was that there was still an apathy and at least partial classism at play within the O’Moore County towards the small ball code. To my mind, Brennan was more or less harangued  into resigning. In a clear case of shooting the messenger. For you can bet your bottom dollar there are hurling folk in other counties where football is ascendancy preaching from the same pulpit.

Laois are in the fortunate position of having somebody as dedicated to and emotionally invested in hurling as is Seamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett. ‘Cheddar’ is one of those unique characters in sport – perhaps especially so GAA – who is instantly recognisable by his nickname without mention of his Christian name. He is also the type whom, you suspect, players would move mountains for. Pluck and gusto will only get you so far however. Last weekend, those in blue and white demonstrated ample aptitude, particularly in the persons of custodian Eoin Rowland, Stephen ‘Picky’ Maher, Paddy Purcell, PJ Scully and Ross King.

Paddy Purcell is a top class performer

In the end, though, profligacy in front of the posts was the undoing of a fine effort by the visitors. Poor shot selection against any team will crucify you, but against Cody’s Cats in their own cradle, it’s akin to giving a jump start to your own demise. Even a Kilkenny outfit which, no matter what anybody says, is clearly in transition. Time has proven, mind you, that few if any do transition better than the oracle in the baseball cap.

Witness such phenomena  as transforming a cultured outfield hurler like Eoin Murphy into the best goalkeeper the old game currently has. Or handing Walter  Walsh his debut in an All Ireland Final and the player going on to garner the Man Of The Match accolade.

He is undoubtedly doing it again. Look no further than the infusion of the likes of Michael Carey, Richie Reid, James Bergin and Eoin Cody. Not to mention awarding a relative newcomer like Adrian Mullen the captaincy.

However, for this observer at least, the emergence of young Cody merits greatest acclaim. Sometimes, there’s plenty in a name. So, if having such a name on the banks of the Suir wasn’t noteworthy enough, being the nephew of the most decorated stickman of all time – Henry Shefflin – brings its own notice and, by the same token, pressure.

Eoin Cody

If early indications are anything to go by, the Balyhale youngster has taken to the big stage like a weanling to fresh silage. It’s worth noting that the free-scoring forward isn’t even the recognised dead ball specialist within his club – that being the preserve of the talented Mr Reid!

Things are changing in other places too, but, again, in the grand scheme of things, there’s been no real alteration in the overall state of the game. For example, over the same weekend, All Ireland Champions Limerick fielded minus mainstays like Declan Hannon, Kyle Hayes, Gearoid Hegarty, Nicky Quaide and Aaron Gillane still had too much in reserve, literally, for Cork before Galway won a Salthill shootout against a typically spirited but wasteful Waterford side for whom the loss of Tadhg De Burca is proving incalculable. Most if not all of those featured in this piece are bound to consume more column inches in the weeks and months ahead.

FOGRA: This column was begun exactly a week ago but due to the passing of my beloved father, Sean, only got over the finish line tonight. Thoughts on more up-to-date GAA-goings on after we lay him to rest tomorrow.

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