St Flannan’s Harty Cup winning coach Brendan Bugler feels more efforts could have been made to ensure the completion of this year’s All-Ireland colleges hurling championship.
It is after the decision was taken not to conclude the All-Ireland series for post-primary competitions in light of the Covid-19 crisis and the packed sporting calendar over the next few months.
The Ennis school followed up their provincial success by taking down defending champions St Kieran’s of Kilkenny, and were due to face St Raphael’s in a last four tie just days before lockdown measures were introduced.
It had been hoped that some solution could be found to see the Croke Cup competition finished in 2020, but last week’s decision saw the campaign brought to a close.
Whitegate clubman Bugler says recent easing of restrictions led to renewed hopes the competition would be concluded, and feels there were options available to be explored.
“Initially we thought the chances of playing the semi-final or final were over but with the changes that took place in the last few weeks, we were confident that the competition would be played off. The four schools who were left in it along with the two schools in the B competition in hurling had all expressed an interest in finishing it out. We had thought it might get played before club action started back which would have been really important and it could have been slotted into a window to be played over a couple of days. The reasoning behind the decision was the provincial football finals in Leinster and Ulster were not played and to finish out all the competitions, you would have needed three dates and they were not going to look for that. It is really disappointing after getting to an All-Ireland semi-final because it is a great honour to get there and a lot of lads may not get that chance again. It would have been nice for the lads to play it and particularly those in Leaving Cert because they had an abrupt end to their time in school. Hurling was a really important part of their life during their time in St Flannan’s and it would have been nice for them to get see this competition through to the end” he outlined.
The victory over St Kieran’s in the All-Ireland quarter-final came less than a week after the saga of this year’s Harty Cup final had finally reached its conclusion. That game had fallen foul of the weather on the first occasion while the refixed game was postponed by a further day before St Flannan’s eventually triumphed. Playing the remaining games over a short space of time is something Bugler feels no one would have had an issue with, and feels it was an opportunity missed.
“If you look at the other teams that were there, it is disappointing for those schools too. The other three schools had never really won the Croke Cup much in their history and it has been a while since St Flannan’s were there too so everyone was really looking forward to playing it. It could have been played off before the clubs started back, and there would have been a great novelty around it to play it over a weekend in the circumstances. It would have been nice to have those few games for the lads before they get stuck back into club action at minor and senior level. It could have been played it they thought about it a little bit more” he stated.
With the Covid-19 restrictions easing once more this week, hopes are high that sporting fixtures will remain on track over the coming months. The pile up of fixtures that await between now and December across all grades will see huge demands placed on players with minor and U-21 championships to be decided along with those at adult level. Bugler feels their defence of the Harty Cup title may have to wait until the New Year and is predicting the format may be altered by then.
“There is a lot to be straightened out with the formats of minor and U-21 championships and the fact that everything has been pushed backed means it is hard to see how they will fit in a Harty campaign this side of Christmas. I would envisage it might not start until January and it could possibly go back to the old format of being knockout. We will just have to get on with it and we are lucky that we got to do our hurling at the start of the year and won the Harty. These months now are for the clubs and county so if we did get a Harty campaign starting in January, we would take that at this stage under the circumstances” said the two-time All Star.