Paul Divilly encouraged by Kildare's development
By Cian O'Connell
Paul Divilly has spent a dozen years on the inter-county beat for Kildare. It has never been a chore, certainly it can be demanding, but small little signs offer hope for the future.
While Divilly acknowledges the frustration that exists when some players opt not to commit to the Lilywhite cause underneath the surface positive things are happening.
Divilly works as a Hurling Development Officer in Kildare and feels that progress is being made. Some Naas underage teams are competing in Kilkenny competitions and other clubs are beginning to invest heavily in youth also.
“Yeah, Kildare has huge potential in football and hurling,” said Divilly, speaking at the launch of the 2017 Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge.
“In relation to the hurling people reference Naas and the work they are doing. It all stems from lads putting in work at underage and growing it. Naas probably saw the work they put in, they saw they had the scope, the next step for them was to keep getting competitive games.
“Possibly they weren't ensured that at some ages so they requested to go into the Kilkenny competitions on the back of some very strong Feile results. In fairness to them it probably brought them on to do even more work and they are getting on very well.”
Kildare have also started to enjoy some decent results in the juvenile ranks. “Last year's Under 14 Development Squad in hurling, we lost the Sonny Walsh Final to Cork beating Tipp, Clare, and Laois along the way in that competition.
“Just a mix like that has evened itself out a small bit, the Under 15 Development Squad at the moment, you'd have seven teams represented on that.
“Possibly only two or three Naas lads and clubs are possibly seeing what Naas are doing and how they can develop. They are putting work in now trying to catch up so it is all going in the right direction. A rising tide rises all boats so hopefully we can keep it going.”
Having spent more than a decade serving the Kildare cause Divilly is delighted to be there, still relevant as the Lilywhites seek to attain Leinster Senior Hurling Championship status.
“You do hear the whole term - the commitment, dedication and the sacrifice county players give up. I just see all the positives we are getting out of it. We are getting access to top quality coaches, we are getting strength and conditioning coaches to look after us, we are given information on nutrition, all the things we want. If you look at the general population a lot of them are paying big money for all of this access.
“And we get to play with the best lads in the county against the best lads from other counties. It is a win, win for me. Fair enough you have nights during the winter when you are travelling down to Hawkfield when you mightn't fancy it, but sure it is the same as any walk of life.
“Sometimes I do think we overplay the whole emphasis on commitment and sacrifice inter-county players give. We do get a lot out of it and it is a very enjoyable past time for us.”
Much debate continues to surround Kildare’s use of ‘permit players’, but Divilly is adamant that the county benefits particularly when talented hurlers are added to the panel. Former Kilkenny star John Mulhall and Limerick native David Reidy are among those to have impressed for Kildare during the Allianz Hurling League.
“Yeah, I probably came in for a bit of flak, I'm a Development Officer in Kildare and I was actually one that was recommending and promoting the idea of lads coming in,” Divilly admits.
“Kildare or any of these developing counties are a funny one. If you go down to Tipperary or Kilkenny or any of the traditional counties, if you ask 50 lads in, 51 will come in or there is another 50 lads waiting to come in.
“Joe Quaid asked 57 players into the Kildare panel this year and for the first month or two we were still teetering around the 20 mark or so. You can't really progress at inter-county with that, I'm of the belief if we can get up to the next grade and we are still playing within the rules and requirement of the permit player then we should be using it and it is not a case of we are turning Kildare lads away.
“These lads were given an opportunity, for various reasons work commitments and personal choices they just choose not to. It is a negative on the lads that do want to promote and bring Kildare to the next level, we shouldn't we do it if possible.”
How David Kennedy, an All Ireland winner with Tipperary in 2001, performed for Kildare illustrates what can be achieved according to Divilly.
“The first thing probably some of the senior county Kildare players would be saying, once a lad buys in to it and is committed to the cause and they are here for Kildare they are more than welcome. An example of that would be David Kennedy, who won an All Ireland with Tipp in 2001.
“He played with Kildare for seven or eight years, he would be just looked on as a Kildare player in Kildare. He played all his home hurling in Loughmore in Tipp, it is just the way they are applying themselves, whether they are buying into the cause or not.
“Thank God all the lads that came in this year you'd have no questions or qualms over their commitment or their work ethic. They have been great additions.”
An awkward away assignment in Ballina against Mayo is first on the agenda for Kildare in the Christy Ring Cup.
Manager Joe Quaid is making an impression on the Kildare hurlers, who are responding well to his promptings. “Yeah, the biggest thing these lads coming into a county like Kildare do is bring a reassurance when they say the standard of hurling we are playing, the games they set-up and how we are competing against supposedly the next tier up,” Divilly remarks.
“The constant reassurance from these managers and coaches that you are good hurlers, it is a case nearly of motivation, work, and will to get over the line. Hearing Joe Quaid, who played in All Ireland Finals, gives a reassurance, it gives lads confidence to develop and obviously the passion and love of hurling Joe has, he gives that to us as well.”
The next couple of months will be revealing for Kildare, who are anxious to launch a serious bid for the Christy Ring Cup.