By Kevin Regan
Carlow Club Hurling took a hammer blow at the weekend with the news that Naomh Brid weren’t in a position to field a team for their Senior Championship clash with St Mullins.
The writing has been on the wall for Naomh Brid for quite some time now after winning only one game in the Senior Championship in the last three seasons.
But what has caused the downturn in fortune over the past few years?
There are a number of factors.
Some which are blatantly obvious to the human eye and others which delve much deeper.
As an active member of the club in both a playing and management capacity, I have witnessed our demise first hand and seen this day coming a long way off.
I remember having a conversation with one of our most decorated players Sean Watchorn back in 2011 about my fears that the club would decline if we continued not to select some of our talented younger players who had been chomping at the bit for Senior action.
Luckily enough in 2011 Naomh Brid reached a Senior Semi Final, losing out narrowly to Mount Leinster Rangers, but since then the club has been in a downward spiral.
Players who featured prominently on under-age county sides were left in the dugout at the expense of more established senior players who hadn’t been hurling well but were selected because of their name rather than their form.
Up until 2014, the average Naomh Brid Senior Hurler didn’t make a championship debut until the age of 21.
In comparison to this, every other club seemed to blood younger players a lot quicker, with Ballinkillen the prime example of this.
When a player sees someone of similar age but with a lot less talent making their Senior Debut before them, then they begin to get frustrated, annoyed and disillusioned.
But this isn’t the only issue.
Within Naomh Brid Hurling club there are also three separate football clubs in the parish, and with Tinryland players now on board there are four football clubs to contend with.
This has made it virtually impossible for Management teams to put preparations in place, as each of those clubs are training on different nights which results in numbers below the figure of ten for every session.
The fact that Old Leighlin and Ballinabranna have been to the fore at their respective grades in football also makes life difficult on Naomh Brid as Football is the more attractive option and a potential dual player will obviously opt for the code which gives him the best chance of a medal which is understandable.
Another big issue is the fact that Erin’s Own, Setanta and Naomh Bríd have to combine to field an u16 Hurling team which is another big concern.
Their are a lot of proud Hurling people in Naomh Brid who are hurting deeply after this latest setback.
People like Darren Kavanagh, Ned Kane, Seamus Brennan, Katriona Lawlor, Michelle Bambrick, Stephen Bambrick and many others have put trojan work into Naomh Brid Hurling club in their respective roles and it really is an absolute killer.
The harsh reality now is that Naomh Brid need to go back down Intermediate regardless of what people may say or think in opposition to this.
As Manager of the Naomh Brid Minors, I see some great potential in my players.
The last thing those guys need is to go into a senior side which will be beaten heavily in at least three of the five championship games, and looking up at the current situation is not exactly ideal for them either.
If some of these guys mingle with the older guys at Intermediate level then Naomh Brid could potentially return to the senior ranks on a high within a few years which I feel would make them much more competitive.
In fairness there is good work going in at grassroots level now and results at that level have been decent, so it’s important that they too have a good adult team to look up to and aspire to be the best possible players that they can potentially be.
The problems and issues which Naomh Brid are now facing are not insurmountable.
O’Hanrahans Senior Footballers are an example of this. At the beginning of the decade they too were struggling big time, but in 2012 they reached a Senior Football Championship semi final with then Manager Mick Byrne introducing an array of young talent and combining them with established senior players.
That situation is one which can most definitely be replicated and I firmly believe that my club can get the wheels back on the wagon and compete for Senior Championships in the not too distant future
For now though the important thing is to work hard to ensure that a platform is put in place to get back to the where the club once was and not to dwell on what has happened in recent years.
Tiochfaidh ar lá