Home Sport GAA Warks’ hurlers intent on going nowhere

Warks’ hurlers intent on going nowhere

Warks hurlers out to create more special moments
Manager Chris Brough (right) celebrating Warwickshire’s relegation play-off win over Donegal last year – Niall Kenned (left) and Peadar Scally have both since moved on. Photo: Larry Cooney

By Damian Dolan

It went virtually unnoticed in some quarters, but that Warwickshire’s hurlers are busy preparing for another year in Division 2B owes everything to one of the most extraordinary turnarounds in recent GAA history.

A bold claim but one not without merit.

Twelve months ago, uncertainty over the manager’s position saw the team start back late, and they were duly left horribly exposed in some of their early games.

Ill-prepared, lacking match fitness and under strength for the first few weeks, some of the team’s scorelines were best glimpsed through hand-covered eyes.

Kildare showed them little mercy, handing out a 38-point hammering, while Donegal warmed up for the side’s relegation play-off by inflicting a 16-point defeat.

A week later, though, Chris Brough’s side turned the tables, winning by 2-10 to 0-14 to preserve their Div 2B status, and send Donegal down.

It was a feat for which the team, and its management, arguably didn’t get anywhere near the credit they deserved.

Warwickshire hurlers intent on going nowhere
The Warwickshire team which defeated Donegal in last year’s relegation play-off. Photo: Larry Cooney

“We celebrated like we’d won the league because we knew how massive an achievement it was,” Brough told the Irish World.

While the “end goal” remains the Nicky Rackard, and Brough says they’ll use the league as a “platform to develop”, to retain their Div 2B status will again be “huge”.

“If we were to drop down you don’t get as many games and the hurling isn’t of as high a quality. For hurling over here, we need to stay in this division.

“Playing at that level puts us in great stead for the Nicky Rackard.”

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The objective, therefore, is survival. But this time they’d ideally do it without the need for another nerve-testing play-off.

To do that, they’ll need to “find a winning way to put points on the board”, as they again attempt to punch above their weight.

They open their campaign with a trip to Dr Hyde Park on Saturday to face Roscommon, who overturned London last year at Ruislip.

Warwickshire hurlers intent on going nowhere
Chris Brough and Ian Dwyer after the win over Donegal. Photo: Larry Cooney

But that will be no easy task in a group made up of teams who ply their championship trade in the Christy Ring.

It’s a “tough” ask, especially with Warwickshire facing three games on the road.

They’ll also have to do it without half forward Niall Kennedy, half back Peader Scally and corner back Kieran Meeney, who have all moved on.

“We have lost a fair bit of quality in those lads – they’ve performed great for us over the last couple of years,” said Brough.

On the plus side, they’ve got a few fresh faces in and preparations couldn’t be in greater contrast to 12 months ago.

The team squeezed a valuable three weeks of fitness work in before Christmas and they’ve kicked on in January.


Integral to that has been the appointment of a strength and conditioning coach – something they didn’t have the luxury of last year.

Brough hopes it will reduce the number of injuries that plagued them.

“We had lads piecing themselves together through injuries last year, just seeing it through games, and not being able to train,” he said.

“It went unnoticed; people didn’t realise that lads were playing with injuries.”

The only thing they’re lacking this time around is games.

Battle of Britain

They’ll get the chance for revenge against Kildare at Pairc na hEireann in Round 2, while their only other home game is a mouth-watering meeting with London.

It’s a fixture hardly likely to raise too many eyebrows across the sea, but for Warwickshire and London it’s tantamount to the “Battle of Britain” says Brough.

It’s 14 years since Warwickshire and London last met in a competitive match. London coming out on top 1-23 to 1-5 at Ruislip on their way to winning the inaugural Nicky Rackard.

By Round 5, the outcome could be “crucial” to the aspirations of both sides – whether that be survival or promotion. Kevin McMullan’s London will certainly be targeting the latter.

“A lot will rest on that game; both sets of players and management will be looking forward to it,” said Brough, who pulled on his boots again last year to help John Mitchels win a fifth All-Britain title since 2007.


Warwickshire will again draw heavily on Mitchels, but there will also be representation from Erin Go Bragh, Roger Casements and Nottingham’s St Barnabas.

While the new boys need time to bed in, Brough has a “core” who’ve been ever present for five or six years, while many of the panel are entering their second or third year with the team.

“They know the standard and what we expect. They know the commitment it takes,” said Brough.

Above all else, he wants the players to be confident in their ability and to go out and perform.

While Brough and the team didn’t want Donegal to be the “pinnacle” of their year, that’s how 2019 transpired, as they went down to Sligo in the Nicky Rackard semi-finals.

But Donegal has made sure that none of their league rivals will be taking them for granted.

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