News Billy Keane

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Strap them up with body armour and it's welcome to the gentle sport of 'pansy hurling'

Published 14/06/2014 | 02:30

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Players tangle off the ball after Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash had a penalty saved by Waterford stopper Stephen O'Keeffe in last weekend's Munster SHC quarter-final. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Players tangle off the ball after Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash had a penalty saved by Waterford stopper Stephen O'Keeffe in last weekend's Munster SHC quarter-final. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

The purists are all agin pansy hurling. The Cork County Board backed Anthony Nash and his blunderbuss frees. Firstly, though, I must issue the annual apology for never having played hurling.

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We in Kerry decided to downsize the county hurling operation after we won our All-Ireland in 1891.

The consensus was that it was far too easy to win the hurling, so we concentrated more on the football.

The way the Dubs are playing, we might have to reconsider that 19th century edict and switch back to the camán.

There's talk of conceding in the football and going down to intermediate.

Hurling men never fail to amaze me. There seems to be some sort of code of honour that, unless you retire with your brains scrambled and your body broken in some way, you haven't given your all.

The anti-pansies were all agin the helmet.

"There wasn't much wrong with the bit of concussion that an Anadin and a half gallon of porter wouldn't cure and sure we all die from brain damage in the end, don't we?"

The gum shields are next for the attack.

"Surely," say the men among men, "if he loses the few teeth, can't the mother mash up an egg up in a cup for him and haven't I a set of false teeth that would saw through oak?"

Curiously enough, the blue and red welt on the leg of Waterford goalkeeper Stephen O'Keeffe, suffered when he took a bullet for the team after his brave save from Anthony Nash, is in the shape of a bull's-eye.

We showed the photo of Stephen's injury to a doctor and he classed the trauma as a severe haematoma.

The sliotar injury was on the lower leg and there was no great danger to the goalkeeper. We shudder to think what would have happened if the injury was further up the body.

The doctor, who played the game, told us there was a possibility of the loss of a spleen or internal bleeding to the abdomen, as well as serious damage to the throat and eyes.

Bob Ryan, the Cork County Board chairman, sees nothing wrong with allowing a player to fire a slingshot at 90 miles an hour from a distance of about 15 metres or even less if the goalkeeper advances.

Bob showed 1950s footage of Christy Ring executing the exact same manoeuvre as Nash. I can show footage of car wrecks from the '5os when drivers drove without seat belts ... Maybe we could offer the goalkeepers a blindfold, confession and a last cigarette.

Clare play Cork tomorrow and Nash will be forced to shoot from outside the 20-metre line, more or less. The hurlers will still have to face a hard-ribbed sliotar without body protection.

The GAA had no choice but to bring in the new rule. Former greats such as Noel Skehan and Anthony Cunningham were in favour. Nicky English fears for players playing at a junior level who are not as skilful at protecting their bodies.

It really is a no-brainer, and the hurling community need to take a long look at the dangers of their game in a way that will not detract too much from the passion or physicality of the sport we love so much.

The casualties in wars are always taken from the ranks of the young. The players need our help. Players would die for their county and the young see no danger.

So, there we are at a hurling summer camp and the image on O'Keeffe's leg is passed around among the parents present.

Do you think that the so-called fostering of hurling will be promoted by the inevitability of an even more serious injury?

Or maybe the manly will see the mothers as the root cause of the rearing of a generation of mammies' boys who will value the safety of brains and testicles over tradition.

And if the truth is to be told, the shooting from point-blank range is a form of bullying.

A well-struck sliotar travels at about 150kph. Surprisingly, a well-thrown cricket ball travels that little bit faster.

Who said cricket is for softies? The bowlers are about 19 metres from the batsmen, yet there is body protection. So, even with the rule change, the hurlers probably still need protection from 20-metre frees. Cricketers wear a plastic abdomen guard. There are cricketing leg pads, helmets, thigh guards, arm guards, chest guards, elbow guards and safety glasses.

So, there you have it. The hurlers can blast away now if we bring in body armour. The players will be protected and the men's men can no longer make the claim that the banning of the point-blank volley just isn't cricket.

Irish Independent

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