To reference Waterford’s win in the Tony Forristal, I linked to the thread about it on AFR. It’s interesting how a discussion of the competition quickly turned into a bitchfest about how the bean counters at Croke Park were attempting to destroy this splendid and august competition. It’s hard to know whether this is true or not. Much of the invective on the thread is purely of the he-said-she-said variety, and one should always be careful not to blame Headquarters for everything that they disagree with from the war in Iraq through attempts to prevent pitch invasions (something we’ll revisit during the week) to corn flakes going soggy.
But it does seem to be true that the weaker counties are no longer part of the jamboree that is the Tony Forristal weekend, and whatever the reason for it or whoever decided on this course of action, this is a sad thing. The comments of the referee really struck a chord:
I represented kerry in the tony forristal. It was the highlight of the summer. I remember defeating waterford B in the sonny walsh and kerry generally played against the likes of Laois, Waterford B, Meath, Westmeath over the forristal weekend.
Surely excluding the likes of kerry, westmeath, meath etc from this hurling festival hasnt been allowed to happen??
It brought back memories of my own flirtation with the Tony Forristal tournament, or more specifically the Sonny Walsh ‘B’ competition. No, I didn’t play in either, never got near it. But my brother played for the Waterford team that won the Sonny Walsh in *gets out abacus* 1989, beating Wicklow after surviving an early scare. Reading the referee’s thoughts brought back memories of that weekend, galivanting all over the city to see as many matches as possible, eagerly listening to every whisper as to what was happening elsewhere in the days before mobile phones, and just being plain impressed and proud that your sibling was pulling on the county jersey.
It was splendid, and when so much of a sports organisation’s mission statement is to capture hearts and minds – the logic of the back door, if you discount the obvious jibe about maximising revenue, is to give people something to look forward to, to know your county isn’t going to play only one game this year – it would strike me as being short-sighted to deprive eager teenagers like the referee of the thrill of pulling on the county jersey at such a tender age. Some might counter that it’s a bit cheeky for someone who only notices the Tony Forristal when a family member is in it or Waterford win it to be offering advice on how it should be staged, and that would be fair. But looking at the contributions on AFR, I don’t think I’m alone in perceiving this diminishment.
Update: An Moltóir’s thoughts here.