A recent conversation on social media centred on whether clubs such as Celbridge, Athy and Johnstownbridge with their plethora of inter-county players at the moment should be stronger favourites for the County title than the Newbridge duo of Sarsfields and Moorefield. Ben McCormack was the only player from the green and white giants to make a championship start this summer while the other three were well-represented in the games that mattered.
A counter-argument would be that re-integrating county stars could be damaging to the cohesion of a club team and therefore counter-productive.
We took a look at whether there’s been much correlation between county representation and county titles over the last 30 years.
The table below analyses over those three decades:
- The clubs who produced the top number of inter-county players
- The clubs whose players made the most inter-county competitive appearances
- The county titles won over that period
Some highlights that jump out from the analysis:
- It’s hard to deny there’s a correlation between having players of county standard and winning county titles when you look at Sarsfields and Moorefield at no.1 and 2. on each list.
- Indeed, Sarsfields’ slight advantage over Moorefield in the first two tables is also reflected in a marginally better county championship record over the period concerned.
- The more instructive of the first two measures looks like the number of appearances at county level rather than the more simple “number of players”. For example both Athy and Celbridge are in the top 5 in terms of number of players but are displaced by Johnstownbridge and Round Towers when the measure is appearances.
- The strength of the top 5 in appearances is clear when you see them all appearing at the top of the list of county title winners.
So what does this mean for the 2017 county title? Who would you back?
Looking at the competitive appearances by their players in 2017, Johnstownbridge are top with 43, Athy 39, Celbridge 37, Sarsfields 20, Naas 20. All are still in the running. I have to say my gut feeling would be that Celbridge, with their sprinkling of stardust and boosted by Paddy Brophy’s return, allied to a group of very solid club players, would be a good bet but it would be interesting to see if Johnstownbridge can prove the correlation theory and take home their first title since 1989. The Newbridge clubs with their strong recent history and strength in depth will have a thing or two to say about that!
Moving on from the correlation between county players and club performance, other notable facts emerged from our compilation of the last 30 years of player appearances (available here).
- Chief among them, some of the larger towns in the county have significantly under-achieved in terms of producing county players. While smaller clubs like Allenwood (thanks to various Doyles among others) and Suncroft (9th in terms of appearances thanks to Anthony Rainbow in particular – 159 competitive games), the likes of Naas, Kilcullen and Monasterevin are appearing in the “must do better” column. Monasterevin and Kilcullen have each only produced 2 players for the county in three decades while the county town have only produced 6. When compared with 47 players from Newbridge that’s a pitiful return. To be fair Naas seem to be getting their act together nowadays and are doing sterling work at underage level. We suspect this analysis will look very different over the next few years and that can only be good for the county side as well.